Report of the APA Task Force on

APA Official Actions
Report of the APA Task Force on
Treatment of Gender Identity Disorder
Approved by the Joint Reference Committee, July 2011
Approved by the Board of Trustees, September 2011
The findings, opinions, and conclusions of this report do not necessarily represent the views of the officers, trustees, or all
members of the American Psychiatric Association. Views expressed are those of the authors." -- APA Operations Manual.
William Byne M.D., Ph.D. (Chair)*
Table of Contents
Susan Bradley, M.D.
Preface ........................................................................ 1
Executive Summary and Recommendations
Eli Coleman, Ph.D.
Evaluation of Levels of Evidence .............................. 3
Terminology .............................................................. 3
A. Evan Eyler, M.D., M.P.H.
Synopses of Literature Reviews and Opinions with
Respect to Recommendations ................................. 4
Richard Green, M.D., JD.
Why APA Recommendations Are Needed for the
Treatment of GID ...................................................... 8
Edgardo J. Menvielle, M.D., M.S.H.S.
Recommendations for the APA ................................ 9
Reviews ....................................................... 10
Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, Dr. rer. nat.
Gender Variance in Childhood ................................. 10
Gender Variance in Adolescence.............................. 13
Richard R. Pleak, M.D.
Gender Identity Concerns in Adulthood ................... 17
Gender Variance in Persons with Somatic Disorders
D. Andrew Tompkins, M.D.
of Sex Development (aka Intersexuality) …………… 26
Appendix I: Other APA Concerns Regarding Gender Variance 30
Appendix II: Other APA Concerns Regarding DSD .................. 30
________________________________________________________________________________ (Am J Psychiatry 2012; Suppl., 1-35)
and charged by the Board of Trustees “to perform a critical
the announcement of the DSM-5 Work Group review of the literature on the treatment of Gender Identity
membership in May 2008, the American Psychiatric Disorder at different ages and to present a report to the
Association (APA) received many inquiries regarding the Board of Trustees.” The report “would include an opinion
workgroup named to address the entities included under as to whether or not there is sufficient credible literature to
Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in versions III through IV- take the next step and develop treatment recommendaTR of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental tions.” The Task Force commenced its work as the DSM-5™
Disorders™ (DSM). These inquiries most often dealt with
treatment controversies regarding GID, especially in child- workgroups were deliberating. Questions, therefore, arose
ren, rather than issues related specifically to the DSM text regarding the impact of potential differences between the
and diagnostic criteria. In addition, the APA Committee on forthcoming DSM-5 and previous iterations of the DSM on
Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues had previously raised the utility of the Task Force Report. Of particular concern
concerns about the lack of evidence-based guidelines for was the question of whether or not the diagnostic entity
GID, and questions about whether such guidelines could designated as GID would be carried forward into the DSM5. The Task Force concluded that most of the issues perand should be developed.
While the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders taining to gender variance (GV) that lead individuals (or
are inextricably linked, they are separate issues and the their parents in the case of minors) to seek mental health
evaluation of treatments is not addressed by the DSM Work services would remain the same regardless of any changes
Groups. The APA Board of Trustees, therefore, formed a in DSM nomenclature or diagnostic criteria. Any such
task force on the treatment of GID under the oversight of changes to the DSM should, therefore, have minimal
the Council on Research. Members of the GID Task Force impact on the utility of the Task Force Report. Since the
were appointed by the APA President, Dr. Nada Stotland, DSM-5 would be published only after completion of work
* The authors comprise the Task Force on Treatment of Gender Identity Disorder, APA Council on Research. We would like to thank the following for
reading and providing comments on the initial draft of the report: Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Ph.D., Jack Drescher, M.D., Sharon Preves, Ph.D., and
Nada Stotland, M.D., as well as William Narrow, M.D., M.P.H., and Erin Dalder for APA staff support. DISCLOSURES: Dr. Coleman chairs the
Sexual Health Advisory Committees for Church & Dwight and the Sinclair Institute. The other authors report no financial relationships with commercial
interests. [Note added in print: Since the completion of this report, Version 7 of the WPATH SOC has been published and is available at]
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved.
by the Task Force, the evidence base available for consideration by the Task Force was necessarily based on prior
diagnostic formulations. The Task Force chose to conduct
its deliberations primarily in terms of the DSM-IV-TR™
formulations with reference to other formulations as
Although the charge to the Task Force was to comment
on the feasibility of making treatment recommendations,
questions arose in the initial conference calls regarding the
nature of the evidence base required by the APA for development of recommendations in the specific form of APA
practice guidelines. APA practice guidelines are defined as
systematically developed documents in a standardized format that present patient care strategies to assist psychiatrists in clinical decision making. The APA’s Steering
Committee on Practice Guidelines (SCPG) both selects
topics for guideline development and oversees their
development. According
to the APA’s website
( at the
time the Task Force commenced it work in 2008 and
concluded it in May 2011, two of the criteria for topic
selection by the SCPG are quality of the relevant data base
and prevalence of the disorder. The randomized double
blind control trial is the study design that affords the
highest quality evidence regarding the comparative efficacy of various treatment modalities; however, no such
trials have been conducted to address any aspect of the
treatment of GID. Given the very nature of GID, such trials,
or even unblinded trials with random assignment to treatment groups, are not likely to be forthcoming due to a lack
of feasibility and/or ethical concerns. In addition to the
lack of evidence of the highest quality relevant to the treatment of GID, GID is widely believed to be a rare phenolmenon (1)1 and likely to fall short of the SCPG’s criterion
for prevalence. The Task Force, therefore, decided to consider whether available evidence, together with clinical
consensus, constitutes a sufficient basis to support the
development of treatment recommendations, broadly
defined, in addition to assessing the quality of evidence
relevant to the potential development of APA practice
guidelines, as defined above.
In order to address its charge, the Task Force divided
itself into subgroups to address GID and related issues in
four populations. Three of these populations are defined
by age: children, adolescents and adults. The fourth population comprises individuals with the desire to change their
assigned gender who have a somatic disorder of sex
development (DSD). The makeup of the subgroups was as
follows: child (Drs. Pleak and Menvielle); adolescent (Drs.
Bradley and Green); adult (Drs. Eyler, Coleman and
Tompkins), and DSD (Drs. Meyer-Bahlburg and Byne).
Each subgroup conducted database searches and
produced a document addressing the Task Force’s charge
pertaining to its assigned subpopulation. These documents
were circulated to all members of the Task Force, discussed
Epidemiological studies are lacking so that no strong conclusions
about the prevalence of GID can be drawn (1). The prevalence
estimates cited in DSM-IV for adults of 1:30,000 for natal males and
1:100,000 in natal females are likely to be under estimates (1).
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
during conference calls and revised until approved by
group consensus. Because the consensus process involves
compromise, all members of the Task Force do not
necessarily agree with all views expressed within the
report. The Task Force could not reach a consensus regarding the question of whether or not persistent cross-gender
identification sufficient to motivate an individual to seek
sex reassignment, per se, is a form of psychopathology in
the absence of clinically significant distress or impairment
due to a self-perceived discrepancy between anatomical
signifiers of sex and gender identity. Since this question
falls within the purview of the DSM Committee and is not
central to the Task Force’s charge of evaluating treatment,
text suggesting a stand on this issue was deleted from the
report. Similarly, a consensus could not be reached regarding the legitimacy of particular goals of therapy with children diagnosed with GID (e.g., prevention of transgenderism or homosexuality) even when consistent with the
religious beliefs or sociocultural values of the parents or
primary caregivers.
This Task Force report assesses the current status of
evidence bearing on treatment, by mental health professionals, of the entities included under GID in the DSM
(versions III through IV-TR) as well as gender dysphoria in
individuals with somatic DSDs (designated as GID Not
Otherwise Specified (GID NOS)) in DSM-IV-TR. The primary aim of the report is to answer the question posed by
the APA Board of Trustees as to whether or not there is
sufficient credible literature to support development by the
APA of treatment recommendations for GID. Separate
sections of the report are addressed to GID in children,
adolescents, and adults as well as to GID NOS in individuals with somatic DSDs. The Executive Summary provides
a synopsis of each of those sections (readers are referred to
each primary section for full citations), together with an
opinion from the Task Force regarding support for
treatment recommendations in the literature. The Task
Force concludes that the current credible literature is
adequate for the development of consensus-based treatment recommendations for all subgroups reviewed.
Moreover, with subjective improvement as the primary
outcome measure, it is concluded that for adults sufficient
evidence exists for the development of recommendations
in the form of an APA practice guideline, with gaps in the
research database filled in by clinical consensus.
The case is also made that treatment recommendations
from the APA are needed, even in areas where criteria are
not met for selection by the SCPG for APA practice guideline development, and that the APA should proceed with
their preparation. The Task Force recommends that additional steps be taken by the APA pertaining to issues
relating to GV (Appendix I) and to DSDs, whether or not GV
is an issue (Appendix II). These include issuing a position
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved.
statement to clarify the APA’s position regarding the
medical necessity of treatments for GID, the ethical bounds
of treatments for minors with GID, and the rights of
persons of any age who are gender variant or transgender.
Evaluation of Levels of Evidence
Where possible, the Task Force Report comments on
the level of evidence from research studies bearing on
treatment issues. Unless otherwise specified, the levels of
evidence refer to the APA evidence coding system which
was in use at the time the Task Force was commissioned
and is specified below:
Randomized, double-blind clinical trial. A study of an intervention in which
subjects are prospectively followed over time; there are treatment and control
groups; subjects are randomly assigned to the two groups; and both the
subjects and the investigators are "blind" to the assignments.
Randomized clinical trial. Same as above but not double blind.
Clinical trial. A prospective study in which an intervention is made and the
results of that intervention are tracked longitudinally. Does not meet standards
for a randomized clinical trial.
Cohort or longitudinal study. A study in which subjects are prospectively
followed over time without any specific intervention.
Control study. A study in which a group of patients and a group of control
subjects are identified in the present and information about them is pursued
retrospectively or backward in time.
Review with secondary data analysis. A structured analytic review of existing
data, e.g., a meta-analysis or a decision analysis.
Review. A qualitative review and discussion of previously published literature
without a quantitative synthesis of the data.
Other. Opinion-like essays, case reports, and other reports not categorized
The diagnostic category, GID, was introduced by DSMIII and included the diagnoses of GID of Childhood and
Transsexualism. In DSM-III-R, GID of Childhood, and
Transsexualism were retained; GID of Adolescence and
Adulthood, Nontranssexual Type (GIDAANT), was added;
and “disorders in gender identity” not otherwise classified,
were designated as GID, Not Otherwise Specified (GID
NOS). Note that under GID of Childhood, physical disorders of the sex organs, when present, were noted under Axis
III. This stipulation was not made explicit for transsexualism and GIDAANT, but intersex is not noted under
GID NOS in DSM-III-R. Thus, if a person with a DSD met
GID criteria, s/he would be given the GID diagnosis, with
the intersex syndrome listed on Axis III. In DSM-IV and IVTR, GID of Childhood and GID NOS (in addition to some
other conditions) were retained; however, the designation
GID of Adolescence and Adulthood subsumed both Transsexualism and the Nontranssexual Types.
DSM-IV-TR excludes individuals with a disorder of sex
development (DSD) from the diagnosis of GID. Individuals
with gender dysphoria and a DSD are placed under the
category GID NOS, rather than under the more specifically
defined term, GID. GID NOS is commonly used also for
individuals without a DSD who meet some but not all
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
required GID criteria (often referred to as “subthreshold
cases”). Thus, the DSM-IV-TR applies the term, GID NOS
(apart from other examples), to three groups of individuals
with gender dysphoria: 1) those without a DSD who do not
meet full criteria for GID, 2) those who would meet full
criteria for GID if not for the DSD exclusion, and 3) those
with a DSD who do not meet the full inclusion criteria.
The criteria for the GID diagnoses, as well as the
nomenclature itself, are under revision at the time of this
writing. Documentation regarding the development of the
DSM-5, and potential changes in nomenclature and diagnostic criteria are available through the American Psychiatric Association’s website ( and are
not addressed here.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Psychiatric Association
congenital adrenal hyperplasia
disorder of sex development
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
female to male
Gender Identity Disorder
Gender Identity Disorder of Adolescence and Adulthood, Nontranssexual
Gender Identity Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender/transsexual
gonadotropin releasing hormone
Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and
gender variance
Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association
International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy,
male to female
World Professional Association for Transgender Health (formerly the
Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association [HBIDGA])
randomized controlled trial
Steering Committee on Practice Guidelines
Standards of Care
sex reassignment surgery
In the present report, the abbreviations, GID and GID
NOS, are used to refer to Gender Identity Disorders as
defined in the DSM-IV-TR. The entities designated as
Gender Identity Disorders by the DSM-IV-TR include only
a subset of individuals for whom clinical concerns related
to GV may be raised (whether by the individual or the
individual’s primary caregivers, educators, or healthcare
providers). Gender Variance (GV) is used to refer to any
degree of cross-gender identification or nonconformity in
gender role behavior regardless of whether or not criteria
are met for either GID or GID NOS. The terms, transsexual
and transsexualism, are used to refer to adults who meet
diagnostic criteria for GID and have employed hormonal
and/or surgical treatments in the process of transitioning
gender or who plan to do so. Transgender denotes
individuals with cross-gender identification whether or not
hormonal or surgical treatments have been, or are planned
to be, employed in transitioning gender. Natal sex is used
to refer to the sex at birth of individuals who subsequently
desire or undergo any degree of sex reassignment or
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 3
gender transition, provided that they do not have a
disorder of sex development (DSD). DSD as employed here,
refers to congenital conditions (formerly referred to as
intersex disorders, hermaphroditism, and pseudohermaphroditism) which entail atypical development of
chromosomal, gonadal and/or genital sex.
Synopses of Literature Reviews and Opinions with Respect to Recommendations
Synopsis: Children have limited capacity to participate
in decision making regarding their own treatment, and no
legal ability to provide informed consent. They must rely
on caregivers to make treatment decisions on their behalf,
including those that will influence the course of their lives
in the long term. The optimal approach to treating prepubertal children with GV including DSM-defined GID, is,
therefore, more controversial than treating these
phenomena in adults and adolescents. An additional
obstacle to consensus regarding treatment is the lack of
randomized controlled treatment outcome studies of
children with GID or with any presentation of GV (2). In the
absence of such studies, the highest level of evidence
available for treatment recommendations for these
children can best be characterized as expert opinion.
Opinions vary widely among experts, and are influenced by
theoretical orientation, as well as assumptions and beliefs
(including religious) regarding the origins, meanings and
perceived fixity or malleability of gender identity. Primary
caregivers may, therefore, seek out providers for their
children who mirror their own world views, believing that
goals consistent with their views are in the best interest of
their children.
The outcome of childhood GID without treatment is
that only a minority will identify as transsexual or
transgender in adulthood (a phenomenon termed
persistence), while the majority will become comfortable
with their natal gender over time (a phenomenon termed
desistence) (3-6). GID that persists into adolescence is more
likely to persist into adulthood (2). Compared to the
general population, the rate of homosexual orientation is
increased in adulthood whether or not GID was treated (2,
4). It is currently not possible to differentiate between
preadolescent children in whom GID will persist and those
in whom it will not. To date, no long-term follow-up data
have demonstrated that any modality of treatment has a
statistically significant effect on later gender identity.
The overarching goal of psychotherapeutic treatment
for childhood GID is to optimize the psychological
adjustment and wellbeing of the child. What is viewed as
essential for promoting the wellbeing of the child, however,
differs among clinicians, as does the selection and
prioritization of goals of treatment. In particular, opinions
differ regarding the questions of whether or not
minimization of gender atypical behaviors, and prevention
of adult transsexualism, are acceptable goals of therapy.
Several approaches to working with children with GID
were identified in the professional literature. The first of
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
these focuses on working with the child and caregivers to
lessen gender dysphoria and to decrease cross-gender
behaviors and identification. The assumption is that this
approach decreases the likelihood that GID will persist into
adolescence and culminate in adult transsexualism (7). For
various reasons (e.g., social stigma, likelihood of hormonal
and surgical procedures with their associated risks and
costs), persistence is considered to be an undesirable
outcome by some (4, 7, 8) but not all (9-11) clinicians who
work in this area of practice.
A second approach makes no direct effort to lessen
gender dysphoria or gender atypical behaviors. This
approach is premised on the evidence that GID diagnosed
in childhood usually does not persist into adolescence and
beyond (4, 5), and on the lack of reliable markers to predict
in whom it will or will not persist. A variation of this second
approach is to remain neutral with respect to gender
identity and to have no therapeutic target with respect to
gender identity outcome. The goal is to allow the
developmental trajectory of gender identity to unfold
naturally without pursuing or encouraging a specific
outcome (12-14). Such an approach entails combined
child, parent and community-based interventions to
support the child in navigating the potential social risks
(12, 13, 15, 16). Support for this approach is centered on
the assumption that self-esteem may be damaged by
conveying to the child that his or her likes and dislikes,
behaviors and mannerisms, are somehow intrinsically
wrong (17). A counter argument proposes that self-esteem
can be best served by improved social integration
including positive relationships with same-sex peers (18).
Alternatively, proponents of this second approach suggest
that the child’s self-recognition of a gender variant and
stigmatized status may be actively encouraged, with the
goal of mastery, e.g., developing cognitive, emotional and
behavioral coping tools for living as a gender variant
person (12, 19). A third approach may entail affirmation of
the child’s cross-gender identification by mental health
professionals and family members (7). Thus, the child is
supported in transitioning to a cross-gendered role, with
the option of endocrine treatment to suspend puberty in
order to suppress the development of unwanted secondary
sex characteristics if the cross-gendered identification
persists into puberty (12). The rationale for supporting
transition before puberty is the belief that a transgender
outcome is to be expected in some children, and that these
children can be identified so that primary caregivers and
clinicians may opt to support early social transition. A
supporting argument is that children who transition this
way can revert to their originally assigned gender if
necessary since the transition is done solely at a social level
and without medical intervention (9). The primary
counterargument to this approach is based on the
evidence that GID in children usually does not persist into
adolescence and adulthood. Thus, supporting gender
transition in childhood might increase the likelihood of
persistence (20). Furthermore, the peer-reviewed literature
does not support the view that desisters and persisters can
currently be reliably distinguished as children (5, 21-23).
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 4
Moreover, after transitioning gender in childhood,
reverting to the natal gender may entail complications (24).
Primary modes of therapy utilized in working with
children with GID include individual insight-oriented
psychoanalytic or psychodynamic psychotherapy (25);
protocol-driven psychotherapy such as behavior modification (26); parent and peer relations focused therapy (18);
and parent and child therapeutic groups (12, 13, 15).
Additional interventions include support groups for
primary caregivers, community education through
websites and conferences, school-based curricula, and
specialized youth summer camps. The primary focus of
intervention is sometimes the primary caregivers.
Depending on the treatment approach chosen, work may
include parenting support and psychoeducation, guidance
in reinforcing behavior modification, and instruction in
techniques for building self-acceptance and resilience in
the child. Some interventions are multifaceted and involve
the school and community as well as the child and family.
These include diversity education and steps to prevent
The Task Force identified the following as the major
tasks for mental health professionals working with children
referred for gender concerns: 1) to accurately evaluate the
gender concerns that precipitated the referral; 2) to
accurately diagnose any gender identity related disorder in
the child according to the criteria of the most current DSM;
3) to accurately diagnose any coexisting psychiatric conditions in the child, as well as problems in the parent-child
relationship, and to recommend their appropriate
treatment; 4) to provide psychoeducation and counseling
to the caregivers about the range of treatment options and
their implications; 5) to provide psychoeducation and
counseling to the child appropriate to his or her level of
cognitive development; 6) when indicated, to engage in
psychotherapy with the appropriate persons, such as the
child and/or primary caregivers, or to make appropriate
referrals for these services; 7) to educate family members
and institutions (e.g., day care and preschools, kindergartens, schools, churches) about GV and GID; and 8) to
assess the safety of the family, school and community
environments in terms of bullying and stigmatization
related to gender atypicality, and to address suitable
protective measures.
With respect to comparing alternative approaches to
accomplishing the above tasks, the Task Force found no
randomized (APA level A) or adequately controlled nonrandomized longitudinal (APA level A-) studies, and very
few follow-up studies without a control group either with
(APA level B) or without (APA level C) an intervention. The
majority of available evidence is derived from qualitative
reviews (APA level F) and experimental systematic single
case studies that do not fit into the APA evidence grading
Opinion Regarding Treatment Recommendations for
Children: Despite deficiencies in the evidence base and the
lack of consensus regarding treatment goals, the present
literature review suggests consensus on a number of
points. Areas where existing literature supports development of consensus recommendations include, but are not
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
limited to, the following: 1) assessment, and accurate DSM
diagnosis of the child referred for gender concerns,
including the use of validated questionnaires and other
validated assessment instruments to assess gender
identity, gender role behavior and gender dysphoria; 2)
diagnosis of any coexisting psychiatric conditions in the
child and seeing to their appropriate treatment or referral;
3) identification of mental health concerns in the
caregivers, and difficulties in their relationship with the
child; ensuring that these are adequately addressed, 4)
provision of adequate psychoeducation and counseling to
caregivers to allow them to choose a course of action and
to give fully informed consent to any treatment chosen.
This entails disclosing the full range of treatment options
available (including those that might conflict with the
clinician’s beliefs and values), the limitations of the
evidence base that informs treatment decisions, the range
of possible outcomes, and the currently incomplete
knowledge regarding the influence of childhood treatment
on outcome; 5) provision of age appropriate information to
the child; and 6) assessment of the safety of the family,
school and community environments in terms of bullying
and stigmatization related to gender atypicality, and
addressing suitable protective measures.
Synopsis: For purposes of this Task Force report,
adolescence is defined as the developmental period from
12 to 18 years of age. Adolescents with GID comprise two
groups, those in whom GID began in childhood and has
persisted, and those with the onset of GID in adolescence.
Only two clinics (one in Canada and one in The
Netherlands) have systematically gathered data on sufficient numbers of subjects to provide an empirical
“experience base” on the main issues in adolescence. Both
of these teams concur that management of those in whom
GID has persisted from childhood is more straightforward
than management of those in whom GID is of more recent
onset. In particular, the latter group is more likely to
manifest significant psychopathology in addition to GID.
This group should be screened carefully to detect the
emergence of the desire for sex reassignment in the context
of trauma as well as for any disorders such as schizophrenia, mania or psychotic depression that may produce
gender confusion. When present, such psychopathology
must be addressed and taken into account prior to
assisting the adolescent’s decision as to whether or not to
pursue sex reassignment or actually assisting the adolescent with the gender transition. Both the Canadian and
Dutch groups are guided by the World Professional
Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of
Care (SOC) which endorse a program of staged gender
transition including a period of living as the other gender
prior to any somatic treatment.
With the beginning of puberty, development of the
secondary sex characteristics of the natal gender often
triggers or exacerbates the anatomical dysphoria of adolescents with GID (11, 27). Recently, the option has become
available for pubertal patients with severe gender
dysphoria and minimal, if any, additional psychopathology
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 5
to have puberty suspended medically in order to prevent or
to minimize development of unwanted secondary sex
characteristics, some of which are not fully reversible with
subsequent hormonal or surgical sex reassignment
therapies (28). A practice guideline developed by the
Endocrine Society (29) suggests that pubertal suspension
can be done for a period of up to several years during
which time the patient, with the clinicians, can decide
whether it is preferable for the adolescent to revert to living
in the birth sex or to continue gender transition with crosssex hormone therapy. There are currently little data
regarding the timing of cross-sex hormone treatment in
adolescents and no studies comparing outcomes when
such treatment is initiated in adolescence as opposed to
adulthood, with or without prior suspension of puberty.
We know, however, that many adult transsexuals express
regret over the body changes that occurred during puberty,
some of which are irreversible. In the absence of a DSD
(addressed in a separate section), at present, sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is not performed prior to the age of 18
in the United States. It is noted, however, that one study on
carefully selected individuals in the Netherlands suggests
that, as assessed by satisfaction with surgery and lack of
regrets, outcome was generally better in individuals who
initiated sex reassignment as adolescents compared to
those who initiated reassignment as adults (30, 31). Even in
these studies, however, SRS was not initiated prior to the
age of 18.
The major tasks identified by the Task Force to be germane to provision of mental health services to adolescents
with the desire to transition in gender, or who are in the
process of transitioning, are: 1) psychiatric and psychological assessment to both assure that any psychopathology is adequately diagnosed and addressed, and to
determine whether the clinicians’ approach will be neutral
or supportive with respect to the desire to transition in
gender; 2) provision of psychotherapy as indicated by the
initial assessment and as indicated by changes over time.
This includes providing psychological support during the
real-life experience and suspension of puberty and/or the
administration of cross-sex hormones; and 3) assessment
of eligibility and readiness for each step of treatment.
Database searches failed to reveal any RCTs related to
any of these issues. The quality of the evidence is primarily
individual case reports (APA level G); follow-up studies
with control groups of limited utility and without random
assignment, or longitudinal follow-up studies after an
intervention without control groups (APA level B); and
reviews of the above (APA level F). Between 2001 and 2009,
over 80 adolescents selected based on conservative criteria
have been treated with pubertal suspension with overall
positive results in the most detailed follow-up study
published to date (APA evidence level B) (28, 32). In a
consecutive series of 109 adolescents (55 females, 54
males) with GID, the Toronto group identified demographic variables correlated with clinical decisions to
recommend, or not recommend, gonadal hormone
blocking therapy (33). Follow-up data, to date, however,
are not adequate for statistical analyses of outcome
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
Opinion Regarding Treatment Recommendations for
Adolescents: Existing literature is insufficient to support
development of an APA practice guideline for treatment of
GID in adolescence but is sufficient for consensus recommendations in the following areas: 1) psychological and
psychiatric assessment and diagnosis of adolescents
presenting with a wish for sex reassignment, including
assessment and diagnosis of co-occurring conditions and
facilitation of appropriate management; 2) psychotherapy
(including counseling and supportive therapy as indicated)
with these adolescents, including enumeration of the
issues that psychotherapy should address. These would
include issues that arise with adolescents who are
transitioning gender, including the real life experience; 3)
assessment of indications and readiness for suspension of
puberty and/or cross-sex hormones as well as provision of
documentation to specialists in other disciplines involved
in caring for the adolescent; 4) psychoeducation of family
members and institutions regarding GV and GID; and 5)
assessment of the safety of the family/school/community
environment in terms of gender-atypicality-related
bullying and stigmatization, and to address suitable
protective measures.
Synopsis: The adult section addresses individuals 18
years of age and older, and thus picks up where the
adolescent section leaves off in considering individuals
who seek mental health services for reasons related to GV,
some of whom meet diagnostic criteria for GID. For some
adults, GID/GV has clearly persisted from childhood and
adolescence, but for others it has arisen (or at least come to
clinical attention) for the first time in adulthood. Among
natal males, there tend to be a number of differences
between those with an early (childhood) as opposed to late
(adulthood) onset. In particular, those with late onset are
more likely to have had unremarkable histories of gender
nonconformity as children, and are less likely to be
primarily sexually attracted to individuals of their natal
gender, at least prior to gender transition (34). Age of onset
may have some, albeit limited, value in predicting satisfaction versus regret following sex reassignment surgery (3538).
The WPATH SOC and the recent Endocrine Society
guideline (29) endorse psychological evaluation and a
staged transition in which fully reversible steps (e.g.,
presenting as the desired gender) precede partially
reversible procedures (administration of gonadal hormones to bring about the desired secondary sex characteristics), which precede the irreversible procedures (e.g.,
gonadectomy, vaginoplasty in natal males, mastectomy
and surgical construction of male-typical chest and
phalloplasty in natal females). Adults who have capacity to
give informed consent may receive the gender transition
treatments for which they satisfy the qualifying criteria of
the providers. These criteria vary among providers and
clinics. A recent review graded the quality of evidence
relating particular components of the WPATH SOC to
outcomes and concluded that psychotherapy prior to
initiating hormonal or surgical treatments, and staged
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 6
transition (including a period of real-life experience) were
associated with good outcome (39). Most of the studies
reviewed were case series and case reports or reviews (APA
level D or lower), although some included sufficient longitudinal follow-up and standardization to meet APA level B
or C.
Prior to adulthood, some individuals will have already
transitioned without medical intervention, while others
may have had puberty medically suspended in order to
prevent the emergence of undesired secondary sex
characteristics, and others may have initiated cross-sex
hormone treatments. Some of these individuals may have
previously formulated a plan, together with their
healthcare providers, to move to the next stage of medical/
surgical gender transition as soon as they reach the legal
age of majority and can legally assume responsibility for
themselves and give informed consent. Such individuals
may seek the services of mental health professionals at this
point only for the assessment of their eligibility and
readiness for the desired procedures as required by the
WPATH SOC or their particular provider’s policy.
As is the case with GID in childhood and adolescence,
and for similar reasons, there are no RCTs pertaining to
any treatment intervention in adults. Nor is there universal
agreement regarding treatment goals other than improving
the sense of wellbeing and overall functioning of the
individual. Recently, the greatest emphasis has been
placed on subjective patient reports, particularly those of
satisfaction, and self-perceived improvement or regrets.
Several correlates of regret have been identified including
major co-existing psychiatric issues such as psychosis or
alcohol dependency; an absence of, or a disappointing,
real-life experience; and disappointing cosmetic or functional surgical results (39-48). Regrets are somewhat more
frequent for patients with late as opposed to early onset of
GID. For both early and late onset groups, a favorable
outcome is more likely among individuals who were high
functioning prior to transition, and who received care,
including surgeries, from experienced providers, and who
were satisfied with the quality of their surgical results.
As was the case for GID in children and adolescents,
database searches failed to reveal any RCTs related to
addressing the mental health issues raised by GID in
adults. Most of the literature addressing psychotherapy
with gender variant adults would be categorized as APA
level G and consists of case reports and review articles
without additional data analysis. This body of work
nevertheless, identifies the major issues that should be
addressed in psychotherapy with these individuals. There
are some level B studies examining satisfaction/regret
following sex reassignment (longitudinal follow up after an
intervention, without a control group); however, many of
these studies obtained data retrospectively and without a
control group (APA level G). Overall, the evidence suggests
that sex reassignment is associated with an improved sense
of wellbeing in the majority of cases, and also indicates
correlates of satisfaction and regret. No studies have directly compared various levels of mental health screening prior
to hormonal and surgical treatments on outcome variables;
however, existing studies suggest that comprehensive
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
mental health screening may be successful in identifying
those individuals most likely to experience regrets (39-48).
Opinion Regarding Treatment Recommendations for
Adults: The Task Force concludes that, with subjective
improvement as the primary outcome measure, the existing evidence base combined with clinical consensus is
sufficient for developing recommendations in the form of
an APA practice guideline. Areas where recommendations
can be made include the following: 1) assessing and
diagnosing patients’ gender concerns according to DSM
criteria and assuring that these are appropriately
addressed; 2) assessing and correctly diagnosing any coexisting psychopathology and assuring that it is addressed
adequately. This may entail modification of the plans/
schedule for gender transitioning; 3) distinguishing
between GID with concurrent psychiatric illness and gender manifestations that are not part of GID but epiphenomena of psychopathology; 4) engaging in psychotherapy
with gender variant individuals as indicated. This includes
identifying the elements that should be addressed in
therapy including the impact of discrimination and
stereotyping; 5) ensuring that individuals who are in the
process of transitioning, or who are considering or
planning to do so, receive counseling from a qualified
professional about the full range of treatment options and
their physical, psychological and social implications
including both their potential benefits and the full range of
potential limitations (e.g., loss of reproductive potential),
risks and complications; 6) ascertaining eligibility and
readiness for hormone and surgical therapy, or locating
professionals capable of making these ascertainments to
whom the patient may be referred; 7) educating family
members, employers and institutions about GV including
GID; and 8) ensuring that documentation, including
preparation of letters to endocrineologists and surgeons,
employs terminology that facilitates accurate communication, minimizes pejorative or potentially stigmatizing
language, and conforms (when applicable) to standards for
third party reimbursement and tax deductible medical
Individuals with Disorders of Sex Development
Overview and Synopsis: As employed here, the term,
disorders of sex development (DSD) refers to congenital
conditions (formerly referred to as intersex disorders,
hermaphroditism and pseudohermaphroditism) which entail atypical development of chromosomal, gonadal and/or
genital sex. The gender that should be assigned may not be
obvious at birth, and in many cases the process of decision
making with respect to gender assignment is complex and
fraught with uncertainties. Genitoplasty is often employed
to bring the appearance of the external genitalia in line
with the gender assigned. Additionally, gonadectomy must
be considered in a variety of DSD syndromes due to
increased risk of malignancy. The multiple medical (e.g.,
malignancy risk) and psychological (cross-gender puberty)
factors that bear on such decisions were acknowledged by
the Task Force as were the current debates regarding the
timing of gonadectomy and the lack of consensus
regarding the multiple issues relating to genital surgeries
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 7
performed on minors. Readers are referred elsewhere for
various viewpoints on these controversial interdisciplinary
issues, e.g., (49-55).
Some individuals with DSDs, in a proportion that varies
greatly with syndrome and assigned gender, become
dysphoric in the assigned gender and may reject it. A
variety of issues in the clinical care of individuals with
DSDs require the expertise of mental health professionals
(49, 56). This Task Force report addresses only those issues
related to gender dysphoria and gender transition in these
individuals. The clinical options and decision-making
processes that bear on gender transition and reassignment
overlap to some extent regardless of the presence or
absence of a DSD. When a DSD is present, however, there
are fewer barriers to legal gender reassignment, and the
barriers to hormonal and surgical treatments in conjuncttion with gender reassignment are lower.
Major areas of involvement of mental health professsionals in the care of individuals with DSDs and gender
dysphoria include: 1) the evaluation of gender identity and
the assessment of incongruences, if present, between gender identity and assigned gender; 2) decision making
regarding gender reassignment; 3) psychotherapy to
address significant gender dysphoria in individuals with a
DSD who do not transition gender; 4) selected
psychological/psychiatric aspects of the endocrine management of puberty in the context of gender reassignment; and 5) selected psychological/psychiatric aspects of
genital surgery in the context of gender reassignment.
The literature bearing on the above issues includes
numerous long-term follow-up studies (APA levels B and
C) of gender outcome in individuals with DSDs, including
some with gender dysphoria and reassignment. These
often have significant methodological weaknesses related
to sample size and heterogeneity as well as inadequate
control groups. There are also multiple reviews (APA level
F), some of which integrate data from accessible case
reports and small group studies [e.g., (57-61)].
Opinion Regarding Treatment Recommendations for
Individuals with DSDs: The general absence of systematic
studies linking particular interventions within the purview
of psychiatry to mental health outcome variables largely
limits the development of practice recommendations for
DSDs to their derivation from clinical consensus. For
individuals with gender dysphoria and a DSD, consensus
recommendations could be developed for: 1) the evaluation of gender identity and assessment of incongruences
between gender identity and assigned gender; 2)
decisions/recommendations regarding gender reassignment based on assessment; and 3) psychotherapy to
address dysphoria in the context of incongruences
between gender identity and assigned gender in the
absence of desire for gender transition. Although recent
medical guidelines emphasize the desirability of, and need
for, mental health service providers with expertise in this
area of care [e.g., (29, 49, 51, 54)] it is premature to
recommend detailed guidelines on their required qualifycations. To do so might jeopardize existing providers rather
than contribute to closing the gap in the availability of
mental health service providers. Recommendations reAm J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
garding the mental health needs of individuals with DSDs
and their caregivers, whether or not gender dysphoria is
present, are found in Appendix II and are not summarized
Why APA Recommendations Are Needed for the
Treatment of GID
APA recommendations are needed for the treatment of
GID for a variety of reasons. First, the existing guidelines,
standards of care and policy statements of other
professional organizations, including the WPATH SOC, and
recent reviews highlight the role of mental health
professionals in a multidisciplinary team approach to
providing medical services to individuals with GID (29, 49,
62-66); however, to date no professional organization of
mental health practitioners provides such recommenddations. Recognizing the current absence of guidelines by
any professional organization of mental health professionals, the clinical practice guideline of the Endocrine
Society (29) states that mental health professionals usually
follow the guidelines set forth by WPATH. Although
WPATH is not a professional organization of mental health
professionals, it counts many mental health professionals
among its members, including psychologists, psychiatrists
and psychiatric social workers. A limitation of the Current
WPATH SOC (version 6), which will be remedied in the
forthcoming version 7, is that it does not cite its underlying
evidence base, nor indicate the level of evidence upon
which its standards are based. An appreciation of the
quality of evidence upon which recommendations are
based is critical for the practitioner who must judge
whether or not implementation of a particular recommendation is likely to be in the patient’s best interest.
Version 7 of the WPATH SOC is now in preparation, and in
that context numerous reviews of the supporting evidence
have recently been published. In fact, all four issues of the
2009 volume of International Journal of Transgenderism
are devoted to this topic. Additionally, the Task Force on
Gender Identity and Gender Variance of the American
Psychological Association has recently called for guideline
development by its parent organization. Exactly when such
guidelines will be available remains to be determined,
however, their preparation is expected to get underway
shortly. A call for nominations to a "Task Force on
Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender
and Gender Nonconforming Clients" was issued by the
American Psychological Association on April 8, 2011.
Second, although the practice of psychiatry overlaps
with that of other medical specialties as well as with other
mental health fields, including psychology, it is distinct in
many respects. In particular, the diagnosis and treatment
of major mental illnesses (e.g., psychotic disorders) in
which gender identity concerns may arise as epiphenomena are primarily within the purview of psychiatrists,
as are the pharmacological management of psychiatric
disorders that may coexist with GID (e.g., mood and
anxiety disorders and the assessment of undesired psychiatric manifestations of hormonal manipulations). It is,
therefore, important that the available clinical evidence be
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 8
evaluated from a psychiatric perspective for the benefit of
practicing psychiatrists and their patients.
Third, it is likely that APA recommendations for the
treatment of GID would positively impact the number of
psychiatrists willing to provide services to individuals with
GID as well as the development of opportunities to receive
training in providing such care. Such opportunities could
include continuing medical education activities as well as
workshops and similar venues at national meetings such as
the APA and AACAP.
Finally, recommendations from the APA would frame
its position on what constitutes realistic and ethical
treatment goals as well as what constitutes ethical and
humane approaches to treatment. In addition to providing
guidance to psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals, such a document would provide guidance to consumers of mental healthcare services, including the primary
caregivers of minors with GID, in selecting among the
various available approaches to treatment.
Recommendations for the APA
1) The opinion of the Task Force is that the current
credible literature is sufficient to support treatment
recommendations, and that such recommendations are
needed. The Task Force, therefore, recommends that the
APA proceed with developing treatment recommendations. These recommendations should address, but not be
limited to, those areas identified in this report for which
recommendations are needed and substantial support is
available from either research data or clinical consensus
within the literature. With the possible exception of GID in
adults, it is unlikely that GID/GID NOS will meet the
criteria to be prioritized by the SCPG for APA practice
guideline development. If not, the Task Force suggests that
recommendations for each of the groups discussed in this
report (children, adolescents, adults and individuals with
DSDs) be prepared as APA resource documents.
2) There is a critical need for an APA position statement
on the treatment of GID, and given the time it will take to
develop treatment recommendations, a position statement
should precede the development of recommendations. In
recent years, the APA has received many requests from
advocacy groups and the media inquiring about APA's
position on the treatment of individuals with GID. As the
APA has never had any specific component charged with
directly addressing such inquiries, such questions were
usually referred by default to the Committee on Gay,
Lesbian and Bisexual Issues which was sunset during the
restructuring of APA components in 2008. Examples of
questions received include: How can primary caregivers
best nurture a child with GID? Does any APA documentation define what is considered humane and ethical
treatment of individuals, especially children, with GID?
What constitutes medically necessary treatment for
individuals of different age groups who meet criteria for
GID? To what level of GID-related care are individuals
entitled if their care is provided, or paid for, by govern-
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
mental bodies (e.g., adolescents in foster care, prisoners,
military personnel and veterans)? Is SRS a standard
treatment that should be routinely covered by insurance?
The APA first introduced GID as a category of diagnostic entities in 1980. Thirty years later, other than the
DSM diagnoses, the APA has no official position statements
pertaining to, or even mentioning, these diagnostic
entities. In particular, the APA has not addressed the issue
of what constitutes either ethical and humane or medically
necessary treatment for the GID diagnoses. Requests for
psychotherapeutic, hormonal and surgical treatments for
GID, or their reimbursement, are not infrequently denied
because they are perceived by private and public third
party payers as cosmetic or unnecessary procedures rather
than medically necessary or standard medical and mental
health care (67). A document by the WPATH board of
directors and executive officers discusses the term,
medically necessary, as it is commonly used among health
insurers in the United States and lists those aspects of GID
treatment that meet the definition (68). While the existence
of the diagnosis contributes to the stigma of affected
individuals, the unintended result of the APA’s silence is a
failure to facilitate full access to care for those diagnosed
with GID. The Task Force, therefore, recommends that the
APA consider drafting a resolution, similar to Resolution
122 of the American Medical Association (62). This
resolution concludes that medical research demonstrates
the effectiveness and necessity of mental health care,
hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery for many
individuals diagnosed with GID and resolves that the AMA
supports public and private health insurance coverage for
medically necessary treatments and opposes categorical
exclusions of coverage for treatment of GID when
prescribed by a physician.
3) This Task Force strongly endorses recent medical
and psychological guidelines that emphasize the
desirability of, and need for, mental health service providers with expertise in providing services to individuals with
gender dysphoria, GID and DSDs (29, 49, 51, 54, 56). It is
the opinion of this Task Force, however, that detailed
restrictions on required qualifications of the mental health
practitioners who provide these services are not desirable.
Such restrictions might jeopardize existing providers rather
than contribute to closing the gap in the availability of
mental health service providers. Instead, the Task Force
recommends that the APA create opportunities for
educating mental healthcare providers in this area of care.
Such opportunities could include continuing medical
education activities as well as workshops and similar
venues at national meetings such as the APA and AACAP.
4) The Task Force recommends that a structure, or
structures, within the APA be either identified or newly
created and charged to follow-up on the recommendations
of this report, to periodically review and update resulting
treatment recommendations, to identify areas where
research is particularly needed to optimize treatment, and
to identify means to facilitate such research.
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 9
Gender Variance in Childhood
Edgardo J. Menvielle, M.D., M.S.H.S.
Richard R. Pleak, M.D.
The optimal approach to treating prepubertal children
with GV including DSM-defined GID is much more controversial than treating these phenomena in adults and
adolescents for several reasons. Intervention, or the lack
thereof, in childhood as opposed to later may have a
greater impact on long range outcome (219); however,
consensus is lacking regarding the definition of desirable
outcomes. Further, children have limited capacity to
participate in decision making regarding their own
treatment and must rely on caregivers to make treatment
decisions on their behalf. An additional obstacle to
consensus is the lack of randomized controlled treatment
outcome studies of children with GID or with any degree of
GV (2). In the absence of such studies, the highest level of
evidence currently available for treatment recommendations for these children is expert opinion. Such
opinions do not occur in a complete vacuum of relevant
data, but are enlightened by a body of literature (mostly
APA level C and lower) including systematic experimental
single-case trials as well as both uncontrolled and
inadequately controlled treatment studies, longitudinal
studies without intervention and clinical case reports.
Opinions vary widely among experts depending on a host
of factors including their theoretical orientation as well as
their assumptions and beliefs (including religious) relating
to the origins, meanings and fixity/malleability of gender
identity. For example, do gender variations represent
natural variations, not assimilated into the social matrix, or
pathological mental processes? Even among secular
practitioners there is a lack of consensus regarding some of
the most fundamental issues: What are indications for
treatment? What outcomes with respect to gender identity,
gender role behaviors and sexual orientation are desirable?
Is the likelihood of a particular outcome altered by
intervention? What constitutes ethical treatment aimed at
bringing about the desired changes/outcomes? Adding to
this complexity, service seekers as well as providers differ
in their religious and cultural beliefs as well as in their
world views regarding gender identity, appropriate gender
role behaviors, and sexual orientation. Primary caregivers
may, therefore, seek out providers for their children who
mirror their own world views, believing that goals
consistent with their views are in the best interest of their
We begin by examining the natural history of GID as
defined by outcome without treatment. We then discuss
the goals of interventions in treating these children and the
factors that influence clinicians in goal selection. Next, we
describe various interventions that have been proposed.
The empirical data available to inform the selection of
goals and interventions are then reviewed and an opinion
is offered regarding the status of current credible evidence
upon which treatment recommendations could be based.
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
Outcome Without Treatment
The natural history or outcome of untreated children
with GID is that a minority will identify as transsexual or
transgender in adulthood (a phenomenon termed
persistence), while the majority will become comfortable
with their natal gender over time (a phenomenon termed
desistence) (3-6). As reviewed by Wallien and CohenKettenis (2008), the rate of persistence into adulthood was
initially reported to be exceedingly low, but more recent
studies suggest that it may be 20% or higher. In one recent
study of gender dysphoric children (59 boys, 18 girls; mean
age 8.4 years, age range 5-12 years), 27% (out of 54 who
agreed to participate in the follow-up study) remained
gender dysphoric at follow-up 10 years later (5). At followup, nearly all male and female participants in the
persistence group reported having a homosexual or
bisexual sexual orientation. In the desistance group, all of
the girls and half of the boys reported having a
heterosexual orientation. The other half of the boys in the
desistance group had a homosexual or bisexual sexual
A more recent study (69) assessed 25 girls in childhood
(mean age, 8.88 years; range, 3-12 years) and again as
adolescents or adults (mean age, 23.24 years; range, 15-36
years). At the assessment in childhood, 60% of the girls met
the DSM criteria for GID, and 40% were subthreshold for
the diagnosis. At follow-up, 3 participants (12%) were
judged to have GID or gender dysphoria. Regarding sexual
orientation, 8 participants (32%) were classified as
bisexual/homosexual in fantasy, and 6 (24%) were
classified as bisexual/homosexual in behavior. The remaining participants were classified as either heterosexual or
asexual. At follow-up, the rates of GID and bisexual/
homosexual sexual orientation were substantially higher
than base rates in the general female population derived
from epidemiological or survey studies.
Desistence develops gradually over the preadolescent
period (primarily between 8 and 12 years) for unknown
reasons which have been postulated to include social
ostracism, early pubertal hormonal changes, and cognitive
development (5). It has also been noted that compared to
“persisters,” “desisters” may experience less gender
dysphoria in childhood (5). The reliability of adult
transsexuals’ reports of childhood gender nonconformity
has been discussed by Lawrence (34). A substantial
proportion of adult transsexuals retrospectively report
gender conformity as children and/or gender dysphoria
that was kept private, never leading to clinical referral (70,
71). Some may also reinterpret childhood memories in
light of later life events and recall greater degrees of gender
nonconformity than were apparent in childhood, thereby
making the decision to transition gender more easily
explicable to self and others (72). Some patients report
exaggerating the history of gender nonconformity in order
to be regarded by mental health and other professionals as
appropriate candidates for medical services related to
gender transition (73).
In Green’s longitudinal study of gender-referred boys,
psychotherapy as children did not appear to have any
effect on gender identity or sexual orientation in young
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 10
adulthood, but the numbers of boys in various types of
therapy were too small to draw strong conclusions (4). To
date, no long-term follow-up data have demonstrated that
any modality of treatment has a statistically significant
effect on later gender identity or sexual orientation.
Treatment Goals and Objectives
The overarching goal of psychotherapeutic treatment
for childhood GID is to optimize the psychological
adjustment and wellbeing of the child. The literature
reflects a broad consensus regarding several other goals,
including appropriate diagnosis and treatment of concomitant psychopathology as well as disorders or conflicts
whose manifestations may be confused with GID, and
building the child’s self-esteem (7, 17, 18, 29, 74). Although
the child is the designated patient, there is also consensus
regarding the need for parental psychoeducation, assessment, and adequate attention to parental psychopathology
and parent-child conflicts (7, 25).
What is viewed as essential for optimizing the wellbeing
of the child differs among clinicians, as does the manner in
which the various potential goals of treatment should be
prioritized relative to one another. For example, should reshaping the child’s gender behaviors (e.g., increasing
gender-conforming behaviors and/or decreasing gender
nonconforming behaviors) be a primary therapeutic goal?
Some have argued against directly targeting noncomforming behaviors (12-14), while recognizing that some forms of
co-existing psychopathology in children with GID (e.g.,
depression) may be secondary to poor peer relations
resulting from peer rejection due to the cross-gender identification. Modifying the child’s cross-gender behaviors has
been suggested by others to alleviate short term distress by
improving peer relations and perhaps preventing the
development of other psychopathological sequelae (75).
Opinions also differ regarding the question of whether
or not prevention of adult transsexualism should be a goal
of therapy. Zucker concludes that “there is little controversy in this rationale, given the emotional distress
experienced by gender dysphoric adults and the physically
and often socially painful measures required to align an
adult’s phenotypic sex with his or her subjective gender
identity (75). Given the absence of any evidence that
therapy is effective in preventing transsexualism in adulthood, together with concerns that therapy with that aim
may be damaging to self-esteem, others challenge prevention as an acceptable goal. Among clinicians who share this
second view, some endorse allowing the child to live in
their preferred gender role to the extent that it is deemed
safe to do so (12, 19). Some children may choose to present
in the gender congruent with their biological sex in most
social settings in order to avoid teasing and ridicule, but
may present as their preferred gender at home and in other
“safe” environments. Other children may become extremely depressed and even suicidal if not permitted to live in
their preferred gender in all settings. Thus, some clinicians
endorse childhood gender transition in at least some cases
(12, 19).
The rationale for supporting transition before puberty
is based on the belief that in some children a long term
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
transgender outcome is to be expected and that these
children can be identified so that primary caregivers and
clinicians may opt for early social transition. An additional
argument is that children who transition this way can
always revert to their originally assigned gender if
necessary, since the transition is only done at a social level
and without medical intervention (9) although this may not
be without complications (24). The main counterarguments to this approach hinge on the finding that GID
in children usually does not persist into adolescence and
adulthood. Thus, supporting gender transition in childhood might hinder the child’s development or perhaps
increase the likelihood of persistence (20). Furthermore,
the peer-reviewed literature does not support the view that
desisters and persisters can currently be distinguished
reliably as children (5, 21-23).
Yet another approach to working with children with
GID is to remain neutral with respect to gender identity
and to have no goal with respect to gender identity
outcome. Instead, the goal is to allow the developmental
trajectory of gender/sexuality to unfold naturally without
pursuing or encouraging a specific outcome (12-14). The
position in favor of supporting free gender expression is
centered on the assumption that self-esteem may be
damaged by conveying to the child that his/her likes and
dislikes as well as mannerisms are somehow intrinsically
wrong. The counter argument proposes that self-esteem
can be best served by improved social integration,
including the ability to make same-sex friendships. Here
the assumption is that the derived psychological benefits
brought about by conforming to social expectations
outweigh the benefits of expressing the putative “true
gender self” (12) freely when it deviates significantly from
social gender norms. Alternatively, the child’s selfrecognition of a gender variant and stigmatized status may
be actively encouraged with the goal of mastery, e.g.,
developing cognitive, emotional and behavioral coping
tools (12).
As reviewed by Zucker, there is currently widespread
recognition among mental health professionals that
homosexuality is not inherently related to general psychopathology or mental disorders (75). Nevertheless, it has
been suggested that treatment of gender variant children
for the prevention of homosexuality can be justified on
other grounds, including parental values (4) as well as
religious values (8). Given the absence of evidence that any
form of therapy has an effect on future sexual orientation,
however, such efforts are presently controversial, and this
point should be addressed in the psychoeducation of
primary caregivers. Further, it has been argued that offering therapy aimed at preventing homosexuality could have
the effect of labeling homosexuality as an inferior and
undesirable condition, thereby increasing prejudice and
discrimination towards lesbians and gay men (76). Parallel
arguments could be made regarding attempts aimed at
preventing transsexualism.
Types of Interventions
A variety of intervention modalities has been proposed
to achieve the above goals. Therapeutic approaches to
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 11
work with children with GID include individual insightoriented psychoanalytic or psychodynamic psychotherapy
(25); protocol-driven psychotherapy such as behavior
modification (26); parent and peer-relations focused
therapy (18) and, parent and child therapeutic groups (12,
13, 15). Other proposed interventions are best characterized as self-advocacy and educational: support groups
for primary caregivers, community education through
websites and conferences, school-based curricula, and
specialized youth summer camps. As in other disorders,
the recommendation for a particular therapy often hinges
on the therapist’s preferences and training. This is
especially true for GID, however, in light of the lack of
consensus regarding either the goals for therapy or the
malleability of gender identity, as well as the controversies
surrounding the ethics of aiming to influence identity
Even though the child should be the ultimate
beneficiary of treatment, the primary focus of intervention
is sometimes the primary caregivers (e.g., via parenting
support and psychoeducation as well as guidance in
reinforcing behavior modification, and building selfacceptance and resilience in the child) and often multipronged interventions are necessary that involve not only
the child and family, but the community (e.g., via bullying
prevention and diversity education). Some approaches
may center on the primary caregivers to minimize
therapist contact with the child in order to avoid placing
the child squarely in the clinical spotlight which can be
stigmatizing (12, 18). This is particularly true of work with
very young children in which the primary caregivers may
be targeted with the aim of empowering them with the
understanding and skills necessary for optimally parenting
their child with GID (12). Additionally, psychodynamic
theories have sometimes focused on the primary caregivers
(77) or parent-child conflict (78) as possible causal factors
in GID, providing a different rationale for primary
caregivers as the target(s) of intervention. Problems in
parent-child attachment interacting with temperamental
dispositions in the child have been suggested to be causally
implicated in GID and cited as a focus for psychodynamic
therapy of the child (25).
Zucker and Bradley observed higher levels of psychopathology in clinical samples of primary caregivers and
suggested that parental psychological abnormalities may
contribute to GID (79). These observations, however, do
not distinguish between cause and effect. Whatever the
directionality of the cause and effect relationship, parental
distress and psychopathology should be assessed and
appropriately addressed as part of a comprehensive treatment approach.
Outcome Research
Very few studies have systematically researched any
given mode of intervention with respect to an outcome
variable in GID, and no studies have systematically compared results of different interventions. Some of the earliest
treatment studies of children with GID were done in the
1970s by Rekers and colleagues in individual and small
case series using behavioral methods (80, 81). These
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
authors tested behavior modification in boys through
contingency management including punishment of feminine behaviors, with a stated goal being prevention of later
homosexuality and transsexualism. Short-term treatment
success was reported with a decrease in gender nonconforming behaviors. Long term follow-up studies, however, were not reported so there is no evidence that these
effects were enduring or that intervention influenced either
gender identity or sexual orientation. Although Rekers’
reports were widely criticized for using punishment and
religious persuasion with the goal of prevention of
homosexuality (13, 82, 83), his general goals for interventions with children with GID have been shared by other
clinicians, e.g., (84, 85) and endorsed by controversial
mental health organizations such as the National
Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality
A parent- and peer relations focused protocol for boys
with GID was tested by Meyer-Bahlburg (18). The treatment focused on the interaction of the child with the
primary caregivers and with the same gender peer group.
The goals were developing a positive relationship with the
father (or father figure), developing positive relationships
with male peers, developing gender-typical skills and
habits, fitting into the male peer group, and feeling good
about being a boy. To minimize the child’s stigmatization,
only the primary caregivers attended treatment sessions
which focused on such issues as parents’ gender attitudes,
changing family dynamics when the father increases
positive interaction with the boy, selection of appropriate
same-sex peers for play dates, selection of summer camp,
supporting artistic interests and talents, etc. The therapy
also involved ignoring rather than prohibiting or bluntly
criticizing the boy’s cross-gender behaviors and distracting
him in contexts typically leading to cross-gender
behaviors, while giving him positive attention when he
engaged in gender-neutral or masculine activities.
The sample consisted of 11 boys. Age at evaluation
ranged from 3 years, 11 months to 6 years with a median of
4 years, 9 months. Eight boys were diagnosed as having
GID of childhood, and three as having GID NOS.
Treatment was terminated in most cases when the goals
stated above were judged to have been fully reached. Ten
of the 11 cases showed such marked improvement; only
one did not and was, therefore, judged to be unsuccessful.
The total number of treatment visits per family ranged
from 4–19 (with a median of 10). In some cases, treatment
for other family problems, such as marital conflict or
individual psychiatric problems of the primary caregivers,
continued after treatment of the child’s GID was
completed. Follow-up was done mostly by telephone. The
duration of follow-up was left to the primary caregivers and
varied up to several years. There was no significant
recurrence of GID or GID NOS in the 10 successful cases,
although several primary caregivers reported occasional
recurrence of some cross-gender activities, especially
during the first winter following treatment when the
children were homebound and peer contacts diminished.
Some therapists, including the present authors, modify
Meyer-Bahlburg’s parent- and peer-centered approach
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 12
(18). This entails working with the family in a psychoeducational and supportive approach, promoting the child’s
self-esteem and decreasing family dysfunction, while
assisting the family with the child’s positive adaptation
regardless of gender identity. This approach involves much
work with the primary caregivers and other family
members, as well as with the school or other facilities, and
can include support groups for the primary caregivers (13,
14, 86). The goals are to allow the child to have a variety of
experiences and to promote positive adaptation to
whatever gender identity and sexual orientation the child
will have as an adolescent and adult, and to assist the
family in accepting and supporting their child regardless of
outcome. The present authors (unpublished) have
observed improved self-esteem, decreased behavioral
disturbance, improved family functioning, and generally
less cross-gender behavior using this approach. One of the
authors (Pleak, unpublished) has followed up 10 boys with
GID who were in treatment between ages 3 to 12 years old.
In young adulthood, 7 identify as gay men, one as bisexual,
one has undergone sex reassignment and is now a woman,
and one who has Asperger’s disorder has no romantic or
sexual relationships with other people, but identifies
entirely as male and reports sexual fantasies about women.
As adults, all acknowledge their previous GV in behavior
and identity, and the 9 who did not become transsexual say
they have not felt cross-gendered since adolescence.
Conclusions and Opinion Regarding Treatment
Web-based literature searches failed to reveal any
randomized controlled studies related to any of the issues
germane to treatment of children with GID. The majority of
studies would be categorized as APA evidence category G
such as individual case reports and APA evidence category
C such as longitudinal follow-up studies without any
specific intervention (4). A few reports might be categoryized as APA level B (clinical trials), however, these lacked
control groups (or an adequate control group) and/or the
follow-up interval was brief (18, 26, 87).
In light of the limited empirical evidence and disagreements about treatment approaches and goals among
experts in the field and other stakeholders, recommenddations supported by the available literature are largely
limited to the areas of consensus identified above and
would be in the form of general suggestions and cautions.
One such caution would be to inform primary caregivers
and children (in an age-appropriate manner) of the
realistic therapeutic goals, available treatment options and
the lack of rigorous evidence favoring any particular
treatment over another for attaining a particular goal.
Families should be informed about potential outcomes
including the possibility that the child’s experience/
perception of the gendered self may change as they
mature. The range of possible long-term outcomes
discussed should include homosexuality, heterosexuality,
varying degrees of discomfort with sex of birth, and
variance in gender expression in relation to stereotypes,
including the pursuit of medical/surgical interventions for
sex reassignment. Clinicians should be sensitive to the
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
primary caregivers’ values and wishes but also be alert to
the possibility of parental decisions being driven by a wish
to normalize the child through therapy intended to
increase gender conformity (or heterosexuality) or through
premature gender role transition. At the same time,
clinicians should be cautioned against wholesale rejection
of gender role transition when this may be in the best
interest of the child, even if in a relatively small number of
cases (88). Clearly, therapy cannot be offered with the
promise of preventing either transsexualism or
homosexuality. Even offering treatment with such aims
raises ethical concerns, and these have been addressed
elsewhere (13, 89).
Gender Variance in Adolescence
Susan Bradley, M.D.
Richard Green, M.D., J.D.
For purposes of this Task Force report, adolescence is
defined as the developmental period from 12 to 18 years of
age. Problems of gender identity present as a spectrum
with some adolescents having longstanding gender dysphoria and wishes to be the other sex (typically evident in
childhood) while others present with a more recent onset
of gender dysphoria, sometimes in the context of more
broad identity confusion and less clear definition of their
identity as the other sex. For example we have seen several
adolescent females with recent onset of a wish for SRS
following a sexual assault. Other adolescents may present
with clear body dysmorphic disorder, psychosis, severe
depression and Asperger’s disorder, with the wish for SRS
appearing almost as a secondary phenomenon. Those
adolescents with GID whose GID symptoms were clearly
present in childhood and have continued into adolescence
are generally less complicated to manage. According to
Cohen-Kettenis and van Goozen (90) this “persistent”
group may have less overt psychopathology. Those whose
GID symptoms emerge later, often with pubertal changes
and/or in the context of a psychiatric disorder or following
Transvestic Fetishism, present with a more complicated
management picture. Although many of the same issues
arise for both early and later onset groups, the timing at
which particular issues arise and how they are managed
clinically may vary between the two groups. The consensus
among the clinicians with the most experience in this area
is that it is important to address major co-occurring
psychiatric issues prior to the gender issues in both early
and later onset groups (23, 91). In the absence of other
contributory issues, as is more common with the early
onset group, supportive work towards transition may be
appropriate (23, 91).
Searches of PubMed and PsychInfo databases failed to
reveal any randomized controlled trials (RCTs) related to
any of the issues germane to treatment of adolescents with
GID. The majority of studies would be categorized as APA
evidence category G such as individual case reports (92);
APA evidence category C such as longitudinal follow-up
studies without control groups [e.g., (31, 93, 94)]; APA
evidence category B such as follow-up studies with control
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 13
groups of limited utility and without random assignment
[e.g., (30, 88)], and APA evidence category F such as reviews
of the above, some of which were exhaustive [e.g., (21, 23,
27, 95)]. There are two clinics (The Gender Clinic of Vrije
University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands,
and The Child and Adolescent Gender Identity Service of
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto,
Canada) that have sufficient numbers of subjects and
where there is systematic data collection to act as an
“experience base” from which to guide both the inquiry
and possibly expert opinion on the main issues in
adolescence. Unfortunately, additional studies to either
corroborate or challenge the findings of these clinics are
not available.
This report will begin by considering the assessment of
adolescents presenting with a wish for gender reassignment, and then consider the evidence for psychotherapy,
the real-life experience, medical suspension of puberty,
and cross-sex hormones. An assessment of the evidence
base regarding each of these issues is given as well as an
opinion regarding the development of treatment recommenddations. SRS is not performed on adolescents in the
United States and is, therefore, not addressed in detail.
Follow-up studies of adolescents and adults from the
Dutch clinic emphasize the importance of good assessment with respect to comorbid psychopathology (30, 31,
96-98). Better outcomes from SRS were seen in female-tomale transsexuals (FTMs) and male-to-female transsexuals
(MTFs) who were primarily erotically attracted to individuals of their natal sex than in MTFs who were not
primarily attracted to individuals of their natal sex. MTF
individuals in the latter category with more psychopathology and cross-gender symptoms in childhood, yet
less gender dysphoria at initial consultation, were more
likely to drop out from follow up prematurely. Such clients
with considerable psychopathology and body dissatisfaction reported the worst post-operative outcomes. As
described below, the most systematic information is
available on the adults (N=162) while the adolescent
samples were smaller (N=22 and N=20).
Although the studies from the Dutch clinic are
suggestive, the predictors are hardly either well tested or
strong enough alone to use in assessing prospective
candidates for SRS. Generally, both clinics believe that
those adolescents with higher levels of psychopathology,
less gender dysphoria and/or more recent onset of their
wish for sex reassignment should be followed over a period
of time in order to treat the more obvious psychopathology
(e.g., depression, psychosis, body dysmorphic disorder)
and to see if treatment of the psychopathology will lead to
a reduction in the wish to proceed to SRS (see case reports
of change in wish for SRS with treatment of comorbid
psychopathology (99-102)).
The position of the Toronto clinic has been to aim for
neutrality with respect to the issue of gender transition in
those situations in which the GID is of recent onset and
accompanied by more obvious psychopathology. With
those adolescents where there is longstanding GID and the
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
adolescent is already engaged in the “real-life experience”
or prepared to do so, the Toronto clinic tends to be more
positive with respect to supporting transition. Both groups
may, however, be offered pubertal suspension as a way of
delaying puberty and/or the development of secondary sex
characteristics in order to allow more time either for
psychotherapy or for planning for the future. Future
planning issues include how to present oneself socially as
the other sex, how to change one’s name, who to tell, and
similar issues. Clearly, for the younger adolescent this
means agreement of the primary caregivers. In some cases
older, “emancipated” adolescents may proceed without
parental agreement.
The Dutch group supports full gender transition,
assisted by hormone administration for adolescents who
are generally well adjusted and functioning socially in the
preferred gender role, are older than 12 years of age and
have reached Tanner stage 2-3. In a follow-up study of
such individuals (N=20), they reported that with cross-sex
hormone treatment in adolescence and SRS at age 18, or
shortly thereafter, the outcomes were overall quite positive
(as assessed by satisfaction with surgery and lack of
regrets) and generally better compared to individuals who
underwent SRS later in adulthood (30). They also followed
a group of adolescents who were refused SRS or chose not
to pursue it (N= 21). The reasons for refusal were elevated
levels of psychopathology, lack of clarity or consistency
regarding the nature and extent of the gender identity
concerns resulting in diagnostic uncertainty, and gross
psychological instability. Those who did not have SRS
showed reductions in gender dysphoria but continued to
have more social and emotional difficulties than the SRS
group. The difficulty in interpreting this study is that the
subjects who were refused or not encouraged to proceed
generally had higher levels of psychopathology to begin
with. Although there were reductions in psychopathology
across all groups it is impossible to draw conclusions about
the efficacy of SRS in reducing comorbid psychopathology
because the groups were not matched for level of
psychopathology at the outset. There are no controlled
studies with matching of subjects at the outset and random
assignment to SRS or supportive therapy. Overall, those
who were refused did not regret not being able to pursue
SRS. The investigators emphasize the importance of careful
evaluation as the initial step in SRS and referral for
comorbid psychopathology in those who do not meet
careful criteria for gender dysphoria. Clearly, clinical judgment is involved with it being easier to assess and evaluate
those with longstanding GID as opposed to the later onset
group who tend to present not only with more psychopathology but more uncommon requests such as the desire
for drugs to reduce testosterone levels with no overt desire
to pursue SRS.
In the Toronto sample there is significant psychopathology in the adolescent sample, particularly in the late
onset group (103). As indicated above, many of these
adolescents also present with a shorter duration of crossgender feelings and less clarity or consistency regarding
the nature of their gender concerns as well as histories of
trauma, psychosis, body dysmorphic disorder and severe
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 14
depression that seem related to their cross-gender feelings.
Despite these observations, often these adolescents are
very certain that SRS is the “only” solution to their
dilemmas and because of this may become very pressuring
of doctors in their quest for SRS. Access to Internet sites
that uncritically support their wishes appears to facilitate
their intense desire for hormones and surgery. In order to
deal with these issues, both the Dutch and the Toronto
groups generally insist on some form of involvement in
supportive psychotherapy with a focus on comorbid
psychopathology and family issues as well as support
around pursuing or not pursuing SRS. Some of these
adolescents and their families, however, are reluctant to
proceed with psychotherapy or family therapy.
Based on the above, it is important to do a thorough
assessment of adolescents presenting with a wish for SRS.
This should include an assessment for comorbid psychopathology, particularly any disorder that may have as a
secondary phenomenon a tendency to produce gender
confusion such as schizophrenia or psychotic depression,
or emergence of the SRS wish in the context of trauma.
As indicated above, psychotherapeutic involvement is
used not only to explore issues related to the individual’s
commitment to living in the cross gender role but also to
explore whether the individual has fully explored other
options, such as living as a homosexual person without
SRS. Attempts to engage the individual in more in-depth
psychotherapy to “cure” them of their gender dysphoria
are currently not considered fruitful by the mental health
professionals with the most experience working in this area
(79, 91). Instead of psychotherapy aimed at “curing”
gender dysphoria, supportive therapy and psychoeducation seem justified on the basis of ensuring that the
individual understands and is committed to a long and
difficult process and has considered alternatives to SRS.
Generally, some time is devoted to supporting the individual’s efforts to live and present oneself as the other sex.
There have been no systematic studies of the effects of this
supportive psychotherapy.
A survey of Dutch psychiatrists who did not work in
GID clinics found that 49 percent had treated at least one
“cross-gender confused” patient. Of 584 patients reported
on in the survey, GID was regarded as the primary
diagnosis for 39 percent. In the other 61 percent of cases,
cross-gender issues were comorbid with other psychiatric
disorders and in the majority of those cases, the gender
issues were interpreted as epiphenomena of the comorbid
disorder (104). The most frequently reported disorders in
which “cross-gender confusion” was reported were personality, mood, dissociative and psychotic disorders (104,
105), with gender confusion or cross-gender delusions
occurring in up to 20 percent of individuals with schizophrenia over the course of the illness (106). Campo (2003)
concluded that the survey emphasizes the need for
articulated rules to assist mental health specialists in
distinguishing GID with a comorbid psychiatric disorder
from gender confusion that is an epiphenomenon of
another disorder. Knowledgeable clinicians can make this
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
distinction based on the patient’s history, including
collateral history from friends and family members, and
longitudinal follow-up. Most experienced clinicians would
agree that, when the adolescent is motivated, supportive
psychotherapy is very helpful either to assist in the
transition to the other gender or to assist in the individual’s
decision as to whether to pursue SRS or not.
Expectations for Period of Living as the Other Sex
(The Real-Life Experience)
Since the original guidelines drafted in 1979 (107) by
the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria
Association (HBIGDA), now WPATH, subjects wishing SRS
have been expected by the mental health professionals
assessing them for suitability, to live as the other gender for
one to two years prior to being approved for surgery. These
recommendations for living or presenting oneself as the
other gender have been modified over time and there is no
absolute agreement as to what length of time nor what
aspects of real-life experience are critical either to acceptance for SRS or to later outcomes. Many adolescents who
have longstanding gender dysphoria may be living as the
other gender at the time of assessment, some of them quite
convincingly. Others, often in the late onset group, do not
appear to have considered how they would begin to
present themselves as the other gender and often create a
sense of dissonance in the examiners between their wish
and their appearance. The extent to which an individual
seems engaged in presenting as the other sex often reflects
the extent of anatomical gender dysphoria and commitment to hormonal and/or surgical interventions.
Although there has been some loosening in the application of the real-life experience over the years and no
consensus as to what is a required minimum length of time
of such an experience, the majority of professionals working in this area believe that some period of real-life
experience is important. Further research is needed before
a guideline on this issue can be established.
Issues Regarding Suspension of Puberty
Puberty is the critical developmental milestone in the
continuation, or not, of GID. Associated body changes can
have a negative short- and long-term impact. A person
born male who is convinced that he should have the body
of a female is distraught at experiencing the testosteronemediated changes of male puberty. A person born female
convinced that she should be male is distraught at the
changes of female development. Assuming that the GID
endures, the consequences of undesired pubertal changes
are substantial. In the long term, they are typically more
troublesome for the person born male. The stigmata of
pubertal body development including height, bony
configuration, hair and voice are a substantial handicap
when later attempting to integrate socially as a woman. For
the person born female there can be a height handicap as
well as the need for surgery which could have been avoided
by suppression of puberty. Clinicians experienced with
GID in adult patients burdened by the pubertal changes of
the “wrong sex” and clinicians attempting to help patients
with GID who are entering adolescence recognize the need
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 15
for intervention to prevent both the short- and long-term
consequences of the “wrong puberty.”
The gonads secrete sex steroids in response to the
gonadotropins from the pituitary. These are secreted in
response to hypothalamic gonadotropin releasing hormones (GnRH). Synthetic GnRH agonists bind to the
pituitary so that GnRH no longer acts. Gonadal sex steroid
production ceases within 4-12 weeks, and upon discontinuance, hormonal puberty is resumed within 3 months
(108). Thus, current endocrinological sophistication provides a therapeutic strategy. Puberty, as it begins, can be
suspended (29). Administration of GnRH analogues can
delay the sex steroid induced progression of body changes.
During this period of “time out” the patient and clinician
can explore the options available and decide on the
optimal future direction of living as a man or as a woman.
The duration of pubertal suspension that can be safely
implemented has been of concern. This has focused
primarily on the effect of sex steroid deficiency on bone
metabolism with its potential for deficient mineralization
and possible osteoporosis. Research has demonstrated that
a period of up to several years appears to be safe with the
deficiency of progressive mineralization being remedied
once sex steroids, either those expected by birth sex or
those administered for cross-sex development, are
available. Peak bone mass occurs at about 25 years of age
and long term treatment data have yet to be reported (91,
109). Significant safety issues connected with the use of
hormone suppressing agents have not emerged to date;
however, long term follow-up data are lacking.
Adolescence is also a developmental period of substantial brain maturation and concerns have been
expressed over possible cognitive deficits consequent to
pubertal suspension. There is some evidence in hamsters
of a detriment to development or changes in behavior
(110); however, there has been no evidence clinically of any
consequence of pubertal suspension on brain functioning
in humans (109). Concerns about consequences of
pubertal suspension may be tempered by the fact that
there is substantial variation in the age of onset of normal
puberty (e.g., between the ages of 11 and 16 years).
A critical treatment issue is the diagnostic challenge of
selecting patients for whom GID is on a continuing
developmental trajectory. The majority of prepubertal
patients diagnosed with GID do not continue with GID into
adolescence (111). Most ultimately manifest sexual attracttion to persons of their birth sex but have no desire to
modify their body to that of the other sex. However, most
children whose anatomical gender dysphoria intensifies as
pubertal development ensues will ultimately desire SRS.
The fit is not perfect. Therefore, pubertal suspension for a
year or two provides breathing space for the young person
and clinician to experience and to explore the continuing
evolution of gender identity.
Adolescent patient selection criteria have included an
intense pattern of cross-gender identity and behavior from
early childhood, and an increase in gender dysphoria with
the onset of puberty in a patient otherwise psychologically
stable and in a supportive family environment (91). Clinical
experience with pubertal suspension demonstrates that
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
with thorough clinical screening the large majority of
patients whose puberty has been suspended continue to
experience GID and do not want the body changes typical
of their birth sex. They are then administered sex steroids
to enable body changes consistent with their cross-sex
identity (28). For the small number of patients who
conclude that developing along the lines expected by birth
sex is preferable, GnRH analogues can be discontinued,
and pubertal development as typical of their natal sex
resumes (29). On the other hand, if gender transition is
desired, GnRH analogues are continued during cross-sex
steroid treatment prior to gonadectomy.
In the most experienced treatment center in the
Netherlands, GnRH analogues are prescribed shortly after
the onset of puberty (Tanner stage 2-3). Triptorelin is
administered in a dose of 3.75 mg every 4 weeks. At the
introduction of treatment an extra dose is given at 2 weeks.
Gonadotrophins are suppressed after a brief period of
stimulation (109). Feminizing/masculinizing endocrine
therapy in that center can begin at 16 years with
recommendation of the mental health professional who
has engaged with the adolescent for a minimum of 6
months. Sex reassignment surgery for continuing GID can
be performed at 18 years and must be preceded by a 2 year
real-life experience of full-time cross-gender living. As a 12
cm height difference is a typical sex difference, it is
advantageous to retard the growth of natal males and
enhance the growth of natal females. The Endocrine
Society guideline addresses management of this important
issue (29).
The most extensive series of cases with pubertal
suspension is reported from the Netherlands (APA level B,
longitudinal follow-up after an intervention). From 2001 to
2009, 118 adolescents were treated (50 natal males and 68
natal females). Mean age was 14.3 years in 2009. None had
discontinued pubertal suspension. Behavioral and emotional problems (as measured by the Child Behavior Check
List and Youth Self-Report) and depressive symptoms (as
measured by the Beck depression inventory) decreased
while general functioning (Global Assessment Scale)
improved significantly during puberty suppression. Crosssex hormone treatment had been started with 71, at a
mean age of 16.6 years (28).
The experience of the Toronto group to date has been
recently published (33). This group examined demographic, behavior problem, and psychosexual measures to
see if any of them correlated with the clinical decision to
recommend, or not recommend, pubertal suspension in a
consecutive series of 109 adolescents (55 females, 54
males) with GID evaluated between 2000 and 2009. Of the
109 adolescents, 66 (60.6%) were recommended for
pubertal suspension and 43 (39.4%) were not. A combination of five (of 15) demographic, behavior problem, and
psychosexual measures were identified in a logistic
regression analysis to significantly (p<.10) predict this
clinical recommendation (Zucker et al. 2011). The quantitative data were complemented by clinical case descripttions; however, follow-up data were not adequate for
statistical comparison of any outcome measures between
those for whom pubertal suspension was recommended
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 16
compared to those for whom it was not. Other centers in
Los Angeles and Boston have similarly instituted programs
of pubertal suspension but have not yet published
systematic evaluations of their case series. Because of cost,
GnRH analogues are not affordable for many in the U.S.
Less expensive alternatives (e.g., spironolactone) may be
used in natal males (29).
Issues Regarding the Use of Cross-Sex Hormones
The major issue with respect to use of cross-sex
hormones concerns the timing of administration. There
are no established criteria for use of cross-sex hormones in
adolescents. Generally, however, these are now used
following suspension of puberty when it is increasingly
clear that the adolescent meets readiness criteria to move
towards SRS and is functioning reasonably well
psychologically and socially. There are no studies addressing the issue of timing. The Dutch follow-up study (94)
concluded that those adolescents who transitioned earlier
presented a more convincing physical appearance than did
those with a later age of transition. This follows logically as
there was less development of secondary sex characteristics of the natal sex as indicated above. There are
currently inadequate data for development of an evidencebased guideline regarding the timing of cross-sex hormone
Issues Regarding the Timing of SRS
SRS is not generally an issue for adolescent populations
in the United States as surgery is normally not performed
before the age of 18. However, occasionally surgery has
been done during adolescence in other countries. Given
the irreversible nature of surgery, most clinicians advise
waiting until the individual has attained the age of legal
consent and a degree of independence. In some jurisdictions (e.g., UK), there is no fixed legal age of consent to
medical procedures. Instead, a comprehensive understanding of the procedure, with options, risks, and benefits
must be demonstrated by the patient (30). At present, there
is inadequate evidence to develop a guideline regarding the
timing of sex reassignment surgery although medical advice is important with respect to removal of ovaries within
a reasonable time after use of cross-sex hormones (29).
Gender Variance in Adults
A. Evan Eyler, M.D., M.P.H.
D. Andrew Tompkins, M.D.
Eli Coleman, Ph.D.
Here we address the care of transgender and other
gender variant adults from the perspective of the practicing
psychiatrist. First, the principal concerns of these
individuals in a clinical context are described. Psychiatric
assessment, treatment options and the processes
employed in clinical decision making are discussed. The
quality of evidence currently available to guide the
selection of practice options and to support treatment
recommendations is then evaluated using the American
Psychiatric Association coding system. The professional
literature regarding treatment of adults with GID/GV is
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
more extensive than the literature regarding the treatment
of children or adolescents. This section of the report is,
therefore, correspondingly longer than those sections.
Gender Identity Concerns in Adulthood
GV is sufficiently common that even adult psychiatrists
whose practice does not focus on transgender care
encounter patients who are transitioning gender, or
contemplating gender transition. Gender variant persons
choose different means to express the gendered self
authentically or to attain relief of psychological distress
due to lack of congruence between the psychological and
socially-presented selves, or between physical characteristics and gender identity. Many seek both hormonal
and surgical transition; however, some seek hormonal
treatment but do not feel the need for any, or particular
(e.g., genital) surgical procedures. Others may choose
surgical but not hormonal treatments. Mental health
services may be sought for many reasons, including a
desire for professional assistance with exploring gender
identity, or to gain comfort with the gendered self or
preferred gender presentation. Some also seek counseling
regarding the decision of whether or not to transition
publicly, and, if so, to what extent. Additional concerns
include preparing to initiate hormonal treatment;
monitoring psychological functioning as the physical
effects of the administered hormones become apparent;
choosing whether or not to undergo various surgical
procedures, such as breast, genital, or facial modifying
surgeries; and adjusting to post-transition living in the
preferred gender presentation. Psychiatrists who treat
transgender adults may also be called upon to assist their
patients with the legal and financial concerns associated
with gender transition in the current social system. These
include coding and payment of insurance claims for
mental health and other medical services related to
transgender care; management of identity documentation
during and after transition; the treatment of transgender
and transitioning persons in the military and in
incarceration settings; discrimination based on gender
identity or gender presentation, and many others.
Adults who conclude that transition is the best solution
to the psychological discomfort they experience face
different challenges than children and adolescents with
strong cross-gender identification. Some individuals who
publicly transition in adulthood have been aware of a sense
of gender incongruence since childhood or adolescence,
but have adopted a social presentation that is at least
somewhat conforming to gender expectations. This may
have occurred (consciously or unconsciously) in order to
reduce the level of difficulty encountered in settings such
as education, employment and partnered relationships
(112). They may take the risks inherent in transitioning
publicly when they are older and have more autonomy, or
when they are naturally going through stages of individuation. Concerns regarding transgender awareness or
transition may emerge during the course of treatment of
some other presenting complaint. For example, some
transgender adults initially seek treatment for depression,
substance abuse, or other clinical problems that have
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 17
developed in the context of chronic suppression, or
repression, of feelings related to GV. Initial disclosure,
particularly in a clinical setting, is usually a time of high
emotional vulnerability for the person sharing this confidence with the psychiatrist or other professional (112), and
requires knowledgeable and empathic management.
Acknowledging the awareness of cross-gender identification to oneself and to others, and integrating this
awareness into one’s identity, is sometimes referred to as
“coming out transgender” or “coming out trans.” This has
been described as a multi-stage process by mental health
professionals with extensive clinical experience with
transgender phenomena, as well as on the basis of
observational or qualitative research (112-116). These
observations suggest a process somewhat analogous to
that proposed for identity development among gay men
(117-120), lesbian women (121, 122) and bisexuals (123,
124). Though particular stages or milestones may be
recognized in the process of coming out, they do not
necessarily progress in the same sequence in all individuals
(125). Persons who come out as transgender, or who
transition during the adult years, are usually in the position
of balancing the drive to live in a more authentic gender
presentation with the needs created by years of living a
more gender conforming public and private life.
Transition Goals and Outcomes
The process of integration of transgender identity may
also demonstrate substantial complexity due to the
variation in outcome that individuals seek. For example,
some never publicly transition gender, while some may
delay openly transitioning for a variety of reasons, such as
concern about the impact of disclosing the transgender
identity on employment or child custody arrangements.
These individuals may, nevertheless, utilize hormonal
treatments to facilitate presentation in the psychological
(trans)gender in private settings – sometimes for years
prior to public transition. Others find that their best sense
of psychological relief and self-comfort is obtained through
adopting a combination of social gender signifiers, with or
without reinforcing medical treatments, to facilitate private
reinforcement, though not public recognition, of the transgender identity. For example, an older male whose gender
identity is female, may spend his leisure time at a club
frequented by transgendered individuals, dressed as a
woman, but may continue to present as male in his
retirement community. He may also take a small dose of
estrogen for psychological relief, even if this does not result
in full physical feminization.
The range of transition goals sought has also evolved
over time. Among the male-to-female (MTF) transsexual
adults in Lewin’s qualitative work (1995), the final stage of
transition was described as “invisibility,” i.e., assimilation
into the general female population. Such “invisibility,”
however, is not currently a desired outcome for many
transgender individuals and other gender variant adults. As
transgender people and groups have become more visible
in society, and have gained a measure of relative acceptance, the possibility of a transgender identity as such,
rather than as a transitional stage within a male-female
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
divided social system, has become a more realistic option.
The film Transgender Stories (126) provides some firstperson accounts in that regard. Some individuals do hope
to fully assimilate as women or as men; however, others
find authenticity in presenting a blend of gendered
characteristics, or of fully transitioning gender while
continuing to value the earlier life experience in the other
gender role, such as by maintaining interests and activities
developed during the pre-transition years. The process of
integration of the transgender identity can also continue
after the completion of surgical transformation of the body.
The possibility of stopping the process of gender transition prior to completion, or of reversing some of the
physical changes that have been attained, has gained more
acceptance in recent years. Some individuals find that a
measure of bodily change, without genital surgery, clarifies
their understanding of their gender identity and desired
gender presentation. For example, some adults who begin
FTM transition discontinue androgen use after some
physical masculinization has been achieved, finding that a
masculine female (butch) identity is more authentically
representative of the self than living as a man. Some adults
who initially present with transgender concerns decide,
during the process of psychotherapy, not to proceed with
any form of public gender transition (31). This can be a
reasonable outcome to an exploratory psychotherapy, but
elimination or “correction” of transgender identity is no
longer considered a reasonable therapeutic goal. Pfafflin
and colleagues (48, 127), for example, describe the evolution in treatment of gender dysphoria from historic
psychoanalytic approaches aimed at achieving gender
congruence through resolution of presumed intrapsychic
conflict, to a contemporary model of offering psychotherapy or mental health evaluations that are often
followed by hormonal treatments and surgeries.
Diagnostic and Mental Health Needs Assessment
Adults desiring hormonal or surgical treatments in the
process of transitioning gender sometimes initially seek
psychotherapy to clarify their gender identity and personal
goals. Some individuals present directly to a surgeon,
endocrinologist or other prescribing clinician, and are
referred for mental health consultation prior to initiation of
hormone therapy or preparation for surgery. Exploration of
the gender identity, assessment of realistic understanding
of transition treatments and outcomes, and detection and
treatment of any concurrent psychiatric pathology are
some of the usual goals of this process. At least brief
(several months) participation in psychotherapy is recommended in many clinical settings, in order to allow
sufficient time for this work to unfold prior to initiating
physical treatments that produce effects that are not fully
reversible. Mental health evaluation and treatment, and
the medical transition treatments that may follow, are
discussed in more detail below.
Psychotherapy and Mental Health Support
The skills used by mental health professionals in caring
for adults who are in the process of transgender coming
out are similar to those used in other clinical situations in
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 18
which concerns regarding personal identity, individuation
versus conformity, or adaptation to minority identification
within nonaffirming majority culture are involved.
Decisions such as whether and when to transition publicly,
whether hormonal and surgical treatments will be needed
or whether some other accommodation can be reached; if,
when and how to come out regarding the transgender
identity or history; and how to manage the concerns
associated with family, employment and education, etc.
are best addressed in a supportive clinical environment, at
the pace that is acceptable to the transgender individual,
and in some cases, couple.
Most of the literature addressing psychotherapy with
gender variant adults is descriptive in nature; case reports,
review articles based on practice experience, theoretical
schemas based on clinical observation or qualitative work.
The vast majority would be categorized as APA levels F and
G. The lack of more statistically robust forms of evidence,
such as RCTs, is representative of the history of this aspect
of clinical practice, and the fact that psychotherapy is often
(though not always) followed by hormonal or surgical
treatments. The relatively low, and apparently declining,
rate of regret following gender reassignment surgery (as
discussed below) in a number of studies is believed to
reflect the overall effectiveness of current treatment of
gender dysphoria, including psychotherapy aimed at
clarifying the social and physical changes needed to
achieve comfort with the gendered self. The available
literature (48, 128, 129) suggests that adequate pre-surgical
psychotherapy is predictive of good post-surgical
Bockting, Knudson and Goldberg (130) offer fairly
comprehensive recommendations for assessment and
treatment of gender concerns, concurrent mental health
difficulties, and elements of general counseling that are
transgender specific. Their recommendations are based on
a model of “transgender–affirmative approach, clientcentered care, and harm reduction.” Based on the available
literature, it would not be possible to recommend one
particular style of psychotherapy over another for working
with patients who are transgender; however, it is possible
to identify the issues that therapy should address. These
include concerns related to gender identity, gender
expression and sexuality; social functioning and support;
personal goals for public and private life, and related
matters. Reasonable understanding of the effects of
contemplated medical treatments and ability to adhere to a
therapeutic regimen also should be assessed (107, 130)
consistent with usual principles of decision-making
capacity and informed consent. Assessment of cooccurring mental illness, particularly psychopathology that
may influence the transgender presentation or that may be
mistaken for transgender (e.g., Skoptic syndrome, in which
a person is preoccupied with or engages in genital selfmutilation such as castration, penectomy or clitoridectomy) and psychotic disorders, etc. is paramount (29, 131).
Adults with gender identity concerns have also often
experienced stigmatization or victimization related to
gender variant appearance or behavior, or on the basis of
actual or presumed sexual orientation as documented in
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
the Report of the National Transgender Discrimination
Survey (132). In fact, some authors have concluded that
such stigmatization largely accounts for mental illness
among individuals with GID (133). The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Gender Identity and
Gender Variance concludes that “…there is adequate
research concerning discrimination and stereotyping to
support the development of clinical guidelines addressing
these areas specifically.” As with clinical work with individuals who are lesbian, gay or bisexual identified, an openminded and nonjudgmental psychotherapy approach that
affirms the autonomy and lived experience of the
individual is a fundamental part of psychiatric care of
gender variant adults.
Medical Aspects of Gender Transition and Their Mental
Health Implications
Mental health professionals who work with individuals
who plan to transition using hormonal or surgical treatments, or who are in the process of doing so, need to be
knowledgeable about these procedures and their mental
health implications. These are, therefore, briefly reviewed
here. Some individuals who transition, either female-tomale (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF), do so without
hormonal therapy. Some seek mental health services while
clarifying the decision to do so, and others do not find this
necessary or feasible.
FTM transition usually includes use of androgens,
which produce (or enhance) male secondary sex characteristics, such as beard growth and male distribution of
body hair, deepening of the voice, and often mild
coarsening of the facial features and skin. Androgen
supplementation also causes enlargement of the clitoris,
often to the extent that metaoidoplasty (one form of
masculinizing genital surgery, discussed below) becomes
feasible. MTF transition often consists of both estrogen
supplementation and reduction in circulating androgens
through use of anti-androgen agents, such as spironolactone or cyproterone (29). Estrogen effects include
breast development and mild feminizing changes to skin
and hair, though for many who transition MTF after
completion of male pubertal development, depilation will
be needed. Many also need surgical reduction of the
laryngeal cartilage or feminizing facial surgeries. Use of
hormonal preparations is much more effective in “adding”
physical characteristics than in “subtracting” those that
have already developed with natural puberty. Body
habitus, including both fat distribution and potential for
muscular development, is altered by use of cross-sex
hormones. Utilization of either androgens or estrogens
carries with it potential for both added health risks and, in
some cases, physiologic benefits. The technical aspects of
transgender hormonal treatment are discussed elsewhere
(29, 109, 134) as is the associated general medical and
preventive care (135-137).
Emotional changes may occur with use of either
androgen or estrogen supplementation, though these are
often relatively subtle and consistent with the pretransition personality (135). Increase in libido usually
occurs with androgen use (29), though some individuals
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 19
transitioning as MTF also experience a stronger interest in
sex, perhaps due to the affirming aspects of attaining the
bodily changes that have been desired for years, such as
development of female breasts (135). Individuals in
transition often benefit from ongoing psychiatric care
(138). In addition to the psychotherapeutic work involved
when individuals choose major life-changing experiences
fueled by ongoing distress, monitoring the psychiatric
effects of hormone use, along with the prescribing
internist, family physician, gynecologist or endocrinologist,
is advisable. For example, if excessive lability is noted, such
as moodiness, weepiness or aggression (similar to the
“steroid rage” that can accompany use of anabolic steroids
by competitive male athletes and body builders), checking
serum levels of circulating hormones is indicated (135).
Safer sex information, and instruction in self-protective
negotiation in sexual settings, is often provided by the
psychiatrist or other mental health professional if this has
not been done by the prescribing clinician. It is important
that this information be tailored to the needs and
experiences of transgender persons (136, 139).
Surgeries for purposes of gender transition include
breast and chest (“top”) surgeries and genital (“bottom”)
procedures. It is believed that most adults who transition
from FTM have chest reconstruction surgery, because the
visible contours of female breasts are such a powerful
social cue and aspect of gender presentation as a woman,
whereas a flatter chest facilitates presentation as a man
(140). Some individuals may not require breast surgery if
the body habitus is more masculine. The goal of FTM top
surgery is not mastectomy, as would be performed for
treatment of carcinoma of the breast, but creation of a
natural appearing male chest, such that some of the
subcutaneous fat is retained, in proportion to the general
body habitus of the individual. Some adults who transition
MTF have breast augmentation surgery due to achieving
minimal breast development with hormonal treatment
alone, though others develop fully morphologically normal
female breasts with estrogen, and sometimes progestin,
use. Some also choose breast augmentation due to
dissatisfaction with the level of breast development
achieved, similar to some non-transsexual women.
Many adults undergoing MTF genital surgery receive
penile inversion vaginoplasty with clitoroplasty, labiaplasty, and orchiectomy. FTM genial surgery can consist of
either metaiodoplasty with limited scrotoplasty, or more
extensive surgery, including phalloplasty with grafted
tissue from another body site, urethral extension,
scrotoplasty and vaginectomy. Hysterectomy and oophorectomy are performed in either case. Information
regarding the rationale for surgery (141), as well as current
information regarding specific techniques (141, 142), is
readily available to patients and professionals in a variety
of sources, including professional sources, the popular
press and the Internet; however, comparative outcome
data among the providers and techniques are not similarly
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
Review of Literature with Respect to Support for
Treatment Recommendations
Prior to considering whether current literature provides
sufficient evidence to support treatment recommendations
by the APA, it is necessary to define what constitutes
successful treatment and to determine the quality of
evidence that compares treatment options in terms of
outcome. These issues will be discussed in turn.
Outcome Criteria
The definition of treatment success is complex, because
gender identity and gender dysphoria, as well as any
perceived benefit of treatment of gender dysphoria, are
subjective experiences. Individuals seeking gender transition may also experience psychiatric symptoms or
disorders that are unrelated to the gender identity concern,
or that may have developed as a response to the distress of
the gender dysphoria (e.g., addictive disorders) and require
specific treatment.
DSM-IV-TR criterion D for GID states that “[t]he disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment
in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” From this perspective, treatment can be considered successful if it relieves this distress or facilitates
improvement in function in some substantive way. Some
early outcome studies emphasized functional indices such
as “job, education, marital, and domiciliary stability” (143).
However, many persons who present for medical services
for transition are already functioning very well socially and
occupationally. In these cases, relief of the gender dysphoria, satisfaction with treatment, and lack of regret regarding
the decision to transition, represent the primary measureable outcomes. (Among patients who experience some
level of functional impairment, these may still be most
important). Some clinical situations are complex. For example, an individual with high levels of personality
pathology and gender dysphoria may experience substantial emotional relief with transition, and yet remain
disabled from employment by the co-existing psychiatric
The importance of subjective satisfaction as opposed to
regret on the part of the patient has gained emphasis in the
literature during the last two decades (38, 128, 144-146).
This may reflect a combination of factors, including a
relaxation of prevailing biases regarding gender and sexual
orientation, a greater commitment to patient autonomy in
mental health and general medical services, and the
emergence of transgender and gender variant persons as a
recognizable political group with reasonable claims to civil
rights and responsibilities, rather than a population
regarded primarily as patients and clients. Cole and
collaborators (70) note that treatment of gender dysphoria
during the early and mid-twentieth century was based on
prevailing gender stereotypes: “Transsexualism itself was
considered a liminal state, a transitory phase, to be
negotiated as rapidly as possible on one’s way to becoming
a ‘normal’ man or ‘normal’ woman.” This viewpoint has
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 20
gradually evolved to accommodate a greater variety of
transgender experiences, and recognition of the importance of subjective outcomes as opposed to the ability to
conform to majority cultural expectations. Kuiper and
Cohen-Kettenis (1998) concluded, “…an evaluation of SRS
can be made only on the basis of subjective data, because
SRS is intended to solve a problem that cannot be determined objectively.”
Evidence Regarding Effectiveness of Treatment for
Gender Dysphoria in Adults
Satisfaction versus Regret. Pfafflin and Junge (48)
reviewed the 79 available follow-up studies regarding
gender transition treatment conducted between 1961 and
1991, including a total of more than 1,000 MTF patients
and more than 400 FTM patients. Although a variety of
outcome criteria were used, when the key subjective
criteria (such as general satisfaction and lack of regret)
were examined, results were supportive of treatment as a
means of relieving psychological distress. Most of the
studies reviewed were case series, case reports or reviews
(APA level D or lower) though some included sufficient
longitudinal follow-up and standardization to meet APA
level C or B. “Big” regrets (such as reversion to the original
gender role, rather than some lesser degree of regret or
ambivalence) were estimated to have occurred in only 11.5% of patients. Other sizeable reviews (of numerous
smaller studies, APA level F) also suggested hormonal and
surgical treatments as successful therapies for gender dysphoria (39, 147). Interpretation of these findings is limited
by the analysis of nonrandom samples based on recruitment and/or response rate. One study avoided these
problems by using German registry data to assess reversal
of name changes following reassignment as a measure of
regret (148). Only one person of 733 who applied for legal
change of sex between 1981 and 1990 subsequently applied
for reversal, suggesting profound regret; 57 of 1,422 (0.4%)
of adults who obtained gendered changes of first name
requested a second legal name change, suggesting at least
some degree of regret. Though this indirect approach (APA
level G) does not provide robust evidence, the results are
consistent with other approaches. A recent systematic
review and meta-analysis reported that 80% experienced
subjective improvement in terms of gender dysphoria and
other psychological symptoms and quality of life (149).
Some relatively long-term, follow-up data (APA level B)
are available, though sample sizes are generally modest.
Smith and collaborators evaluated 162 Dutch adolescent
and adult patients who were eligible for gender transition
services based on “gender dysphoria, psychological stability, and physical appearance” after completion of treatment. Approximately half of the original consecutive
applicants for sex reassignment completed hormonal and
surgical transition (98). Two patients had regrets; most
others experienced relief of gender dysphoria and were
found to be functioning well “psychologically, socially and
sexually.” Johansson and collaborators followed 42 MTF
adults and 17 FTM adults, who met diagnostic criteria for
GID and were accepted into treatment in a transgender
treatment program, for 5 years or longer (150). At the time
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
of publication, 32 had received genital reassignment
surgery, 5 were anticipating surgery, and 5 had decided not
to proceed. No one regretted his or her decision; 95% of
participants rated their global outcome as favorable,
though only 62% of the clinician assessments concurred.
There were no differences between subgroups. Conversely,
Kuhn et al. (151) used the King’s Health Questionnaire and
Visual Analogue Scale to measure quality of life in 52 MTF
adults and 3 FTMs recruited from a Swiss tertiary medical
center gender program (151). All subjects were 15 or more
years post-gender reassignment surgery. Overall quality of
life and life satisfaction levels were lower than matched
controls, particularly in the domains of general health, role
limitation, physical limitation, and personal limitation.
However, the control group was chosen from the “healthy
female medical staff with at least one previous abdominal
or pelvic operation,” rather than from a more appropriate
sample, such as transgender adults who did not receive
surgery. The quality of life assessments are, therefore, likely
to be valid in absolute terms, but the question of whether
the participants’ quality of life was improved by transition
(relative to having not transitioned) remains unresolved.
Similarly, a recent population-based matched cohort study
(APA level D) compared 191 MTF subjects and 133 FTM
subjects with random controls matched by birth year and
natal sex, as well as by birth year and reassigned sex (152).
The transsexual subjects had received sex reassignment
surgery in Sweden between the years 1973-2003. Although
higher risks for psychiatric morbidity, suicidal behavior,
and mortality were found in the transsexual groups,
relative to non-transsexual controls, no comparison was
made to transsexual persons who did not receive
treatment. As with the Kuhn study (151) questions
regarding the magnitude of improvement in quality of life
attributable to gender transition and SRS were not
addressed, though the authors noted that the gender
dysphoria had been alleviated.
Correlates of Satisfaction and Regret. Much of the
research literature that employs an outcome perspective
has focused on identifying correlates of treatment satisfaction and lack of regret among persons seeking transition
with hormonal and surgical treatments, particularly those
who transition MTF. In theory, these data could be used in
the formulation of treatment recommendations, to assist
clinicians in identifying individuals who are most likely to
benefit from hormonal and surgical treatments as well as
those most likely to have post-treatment regrets. Particularly controversial in this research, MTF psychological and
social characteristics have often been dichotomized by the
typology of “early onset/androphilic” versus “late onset/
gynephilic” transsexual adults. Lawrence (38) summarizes
this distinction as follows:
Many researchers have proposed that there are two types
of MTF transsexuals. One category includes persons who
typically transition at a younger age, report more sexual
attraction to and sexual experience with males, are
unlikely to have married or to have become biologic
parents, and recall more childhood femininity. The other
category includes persons who typically transition at an
older age, report more sexual attraction to and sexual
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 21
experience with females, are more likely to have married
and to have become biologic parents, report more past or
current sexual arousal to cross-dressing and cross-gender
fantasy, and recall less childhood femininity [p.300].
Transgender MTF adults with early onset/androphilic
characteristics have been more often found to have higher
rates of satisfaction with gender transition and fewer
regrets (35-37). However, Lawrence (38) notes that the
population of persons applying for gender transition
surgeries has undergone a demographic shift, particularly
in the United States and Canada. For example, at the
Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto, the percentage of
MTF adults seeking SRS who were “nonhomosexual
relative to biologic sex,” increased from 25% (153) to 59%
(154) in a single decade. In a related phenomenon, the
average age of MTF transgender adults presenting for
gender reassignment services in Sweden increased by 8
years during two decades (155). Younger age at the time of
transition had previously been found to correlate with both
androphilia and better outcome satisfaction. However,
rates of regret following surgery have decreased during this
time, as discussed below, suggesting the possibility that cooccurring social changes, or other factors, have eroded the
strength of these previously somewhat predictive
Interviews with subjects who express substantial regret
following genital reassignment surgery, and related case
reviews, have identified several correlates of regret. These
include: inadequate diagnosis of major pathology (e.g.,
psychosis, personality disorder, alcohol dependency),
misdiagnosis, absence of or a disappointing real-life experience, and poor family support (39-48). Given the
magnitude of the social changes associated with gender
transition, these correlates are intuitively appealing, as
strong family support and good emotional health are
associated with positive adjustment to many other life
changes. However, cases have been reported in which the
individual was both suffering from severe co-occurring
psychopathology, and was a “late-onset, gynephilic” MTF
transgender adult, and yet experienced a long-term,
positive outcome with hormonal and surgical gender
transition (156). Several members of this Task Force have
treated patients with severe co-existing psychiatric illness
who successfully transitioned gender and experienced
improved quality of life. Delaying therapy with hormones
or surgery until serious mental health difficulties are
addressed may promote adherence to needed psychiatric
and other mental health treatment, such that the
individual experiences benefit with regard to both the
gender dysphoria and the concurrent psychiatric illness.
The co-occurrence of serious psychiatric pathology is
further discussed below.
The quality of the surgical result, including function
and appearance, has also correlated positively with patient
satisfaction or other positive outcome measures among
both MTF adults (42, 45, 47, 48, 128) and FTM adults (157),
though it remains difficult to achieve surgically excellent
results with phalloplasty (158) relative to vulvovaginoplasty
(38). In her anonymous mailed questionnaire study of 232
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
MTF transsexual adults operated on between 1994 and
2000 by one surgeon using a consistent technique,
Lawrence (2003) found poor surgical outcome to be the
strongest predictor of regret. Overall, no participants
reported “consistent regret” and only 15 (6%) were
“sometimes regretful” (p. 305). Kuiper and Cohen-Kettenis
(1998) recommended the use of multidisciplinary teams in
order to minimize poor outcomes through lack of complete
information or individual clinician bias. Although few
systematic studies of suicide among gender transitioning
persons have been conducted, the case report literature
suggests that this is a relatively rare outcome (39). Dhejne
et al. (152) found an increased risk of death by suicide, and
of suicide attempts, among subjects who had received SRS,
relative to age-matched population controls, but also
noted that the difference in suicide attempts did not reach
statistical significance for the most recent cohort, those
who had transitioned gender during 1989-2003.
The majority of the satisfaction/regret outcome studies
described above suggests that most subjects experience
subjective improvement following gender transition; however, most lacked a control group. Studies assessing
correlates of satisfaction through interviews or case
reviews would be categorized as APA level G. For some
important aspects of transgender care, it would be impossible or unwise to engage in more robust study designs
due to ethical concerns and lack of volunteer enrollment.
For example, it would be extremely problematic to include
a “long-term placebo treated control group” in an RCT of
hormone therapy efficacy among gender variant adults
desiring to use hormonal treatments.
Review of the available literature also documents a
downward trend in rates of post-surgical regrets over the
last three decades. Though satisfaction with transition
outcome is believed to be the norm in recent years, earlier
studies (143, 159) found rates of regret of 30% or higher,
and even in 1997, one study found a 6% regret rate (47).
Reasons for this trend are not completely clear, but it is
temporally correlated with fairly widespread adoption of
flexible but less idiosyncratic pre-surgical criteria (the
WPATH SOC); improved surgical techniques and outcomes, particularly for vulvovaginoplasty; and an improved social climate for members of sexual and gender
minorities. This has been suggested as indirect evidence of
the utility of the WPATH SOC in pre-surgical evaluation
and treatment of gender transitioning patients (39, 160).
Options and Evidence for Psychiatric Evaluation and
Mental Health Care
Adults who make use of conventional medical services
for gender transition historically received mental health
evaluation prior to beginning this process (161), unless
they had already been living as a member of the psychological (post-transition) gender for a significant period of
time (107). The principal area of current clinical controversy with regard to use of hormonal medications by
persons in gender transition concerns the nature of and
extent of preparation for beginning hormonal transition,
particularly the mental health evaluation. Options
currently in use include the following: extensive mental
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 22
health evaluation or real-life experience prior to beginning
treatment with hormonal medications, brief evaluation by
a mental health professional prior to hormonal prescripttion, mental health screening by the prescribing clinician,
and prescription without specific evaluation. Additional
possibilities, such as the creation of certified “gender
specialists” who would assess readiness have been
suggested (162). Evaluation prior to genital surgery is
similar but usually more extensive. The basis for each of
these approaches is discussed below. This discussion
applies only to the treatment of patients who seek medical
services through licensed health care facilities in the
United States and Canada. Some individuals obtain
hormonal preparations without any medical or mental
health contact, such as via the Internet or veterinary
supply. Some travel to other countries to obtain surgical
treatments without specific pre-surgical requirements.
Outcome data for treatment obtained through these routes
are lacking.
Mental Health Evaluation Options Prior to
Hormonal Therapy
Comprehensive Mental Health Evaluation. Although
some reasonable evidence supporting the clinical effecttiveness of hormonal and surgical methods in the
treatment of “gender dysphoria” (principally case series by
Benjamin, Green, Money, and Stoller [e.g., (163-166),
reviewed in (167)] had accumulated by the 1960s, the use
of these physical modalities, rather than psychoanalysis or
extended psychotherapy aimed at resolving the intrapsychic conflict believed to underlie the transsexualism,
and its associated implicit homosexuality, remained
controversial and politicized. For example, the first
university-affiliated transgender program, at Johns
Hopkins University was founded in the 1960s and then
disbanded in an ideological sea change in 1979 (though
gender identity concerns subsequently became part of the
scope of practice of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Behaviors
Consultation Unit). Psychiatrists and psychologists
approached individuals seeking medical services for
gender transition idiosyncratically, without consistency in
regard to recommending, or attempting to dissuade the
use of, hormonal and surgical treatments. Several recent
reviews and policy papers (161, 162, 168, 169) have
described the intertwined clinical and political difficulties
that existed in that era.
The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria
Association (HBIGDA) was founded in 1979, to address the
need for professional guidance in treating individuals with
GID. Standards of Care (SOC) were developed by an
international consensus panel, initially for the purpose of
providing some protection to patients and their treating
physicians (107). These have been subsequently revised at
intervals, with a 7th revision in process at the time of this
writing. HBIGDA has been renamed, and is now the World
Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
The current, sixth version (107) of the WPATH SOC
recommends evaluation by a psychiatrist, psychologist,
clinical social worker, or other master’s or doctoral level
mental health clinician, prior to beginning treatment with
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
hormonal medications. Areas of emphasis include
identifying and beginning treatment of any pathology that
may exist concurrent with the transition, and assessing
readiness for hormonal treatment based on consolidation
of the gender identity and demonstration of general
psychiatric stability sufficient to withstand the social or
medical complications that may ensue during the physical
transition process. Adults seeking treatment with
hormonal medications should also have either engaged in
psychotherapy (usually for 3 months or longer) or have
engaged in a documented period of having lived in the
psychological gender (a “real-life experience”) for at least 3
months. In addition, patients should experience further
consolidation of the gender identity during this time and
make progress with regard to any ongoing mental health
problems, such as substance abuse. They should also be
considered likely to “take hormones in a responsible
manner [p.14].” In other words, the use of hormonal
medications is regarded as part of an ongoing process of
physical and psychosocial transition, undertaken with
informed consent, in the context of mental health and
general medical care.
The WPATH SOC recommend different levels of
preparation for breast and genital surgeries. FTM breast
surgery may be obtained at the time of beginning hormonal treatment, as the breast morphology will be minimally
affected by use of testosterone, and because FTM chest
reconstruction may be necessary for social presentation as
a male. MTF individuals should defer breast augmentation
surgery until after at least 18 months of treatment with
feminizing hormones, in order to reduce the likelihood of
unnecessary procedures. WPATH Standards for preparation for genital surgery are more comprehensive than those
addressing hormonal treatment eligibility and readiness,
and the time course is longer: twelve months of hormonal
therapy unless this is medically contraindicated, and
twelve months of real-life experience. The current WPATH
SOC (version 6) require documentation of a GID diagnosis
and recommendation for surgery by two mental health
professionals, at least one of whom must be a psychiatrist
or doctoral level psychologist.
The Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Level
of Evidence system has been used to evaluate the evidence
regarding the key components of the WPATH SOC for sex
reassignment surgery, described as eligibility and readiness
criteria (e.g., pre-treatment psychotherapy, real-life experience, sequence of transition steps), as predictors of
favorable post-surgical outcome (39). Overall evidence
supported these components; however, the level of
evidence was generally low, mostly corresponding to APA
level D and lower. Some studies, however, [e.g, (31, 37,
170)], that tracked patients longitudinally after intervention could be categorized as APA level B. The evidence
in support of gender reassignment surgery as an “effective
and medically indicated” treatment in cases of “severe
GID” was similarly evaluated (140). Results were not
uniformly supportive of surgical transition, but reports of
post-surgical regret have become much less common over
time; studies published since the late 1990s have been
more consistently positive. Due to the lack of RCTs or large,
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 23
well-designed follow-up studies most evidence is estimated to be at or below APA level C. Outcome measures
varied across the studies reviewed, but were largely based
on satisfaction and similar subjective measures.
In 2009, a consensus group of European and American
endocrinological professional societies produced an evience based practice guideline (29) based on extensive
literature review using the Grading of Recommendations,
Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE)
system (171). Strong recommendations (based on GRADE
criteria) were made regarding the involvement of mental
health professionals in gender transition treatment,
including that the diagnosis of GID be made by a mental
health professional and that the endocrinologist and
mental health professional agree on the advisability of
surgical reassignment prior to surgery. The type of mental
health professional was not specified. The endocrine
guideline notes that mental health professionals usually
adhere to the WPATH SOC (29).
Some other clinical guidelines, such as the Vancouver
Transgender Health Program/Vancouver Coastal Health
(172) also recommend full psychological and/or
psychiatric mental health evaluation before genital
surgery. Although many, and perhaps most, adults who
seek transgender hormonal transition or surgical procedures may have sufficient mental and emotional wellbeing to manage the associated physical and experiential
impacts, the smaller number who do not may be spared
devastating outcomes through timely (especially presurgical) evaluation and treatment of co-existing psychiatric illness.
The mental health evaluation component of these
guidelines is included in an effort to promote good
transition outcomes through management of the psychological stress of the transition process and any accompanying axis I or II disorders, rather than simply through
assuring accurate diagnosis of the GID as such. In some
cases, gender concerns or preoccupations are a manifestation of other intrapsychic conflicts (e.g., a male sex
offender who covertly desires castration) or epiphenomena
of other illnesses (e.g., bipolar mania or psychosis with
delusional beliefs about gender). A recent Dutch study
found that mental health professionals most valued
consultation that provided guidance in distinguishing
between transgender with concurrent psychiatric illness
and psychopathology manifesting features that could be
confused with GID (104, 105). Similarly, a British psychiatrist was sanctioned by the General Medical Council for
prescribing hormonal medications and recommending
surgeries based on insufficient evaluation, in cases such as
those described above, to the detriment of the patient; in
effect, for failing to follow the WPATH SOC current at the
time (173, 174).
Although clinical guidelines that restrict access to
hormonal or surgical treatments may reflect a variety of
implicit assumptions regarding the experience of persons
who transition gender, one important basis for their
development has been the finding that, although GV is not
in itself evidence of medical or psychiatric pathology,
neither is it protective from concurrent psychiatric illness
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
(175-178). Further, Meyer (160) notes that although some
clinicians have observed that proceeding with transition
planning can sometimes alleviate other axis I related
symptoms (41, 43, 48, 155, 175), others have reported lower
likelihood of good long-term outcome (e.g., poor adjustment or regret) when concurrent disorders are present. It is
probable that both findings have validity. Gender
transition can foster social adjustment, improve selfesteem, and relieve the anxiety and mood symptoms that
can accompany gender dysphoria, but significant cooccurring mental illness can mitigate against positive
outcomes of any medical treatment, whether or not it is
related to gender identity. Bockting et al. (2006) provide an
approach to consultation regarding gender transition,
including a list of co-occurring factors that should be
specifically evaluated, such as associated obsessivecompulsive features, delusions about sex or gender,
dissociation, personality disorders, Asperger’s disorder and
internalized homophobia. Their approach has substantial
face validity and is consistent with general principles of
psychiatric diagnosis, although it is supported primarily by
low levels of evidence (generally level D and below).
Other Options Prior to Initiating Hormones. Although
the WPATH SOC have been utilized in clinical practice with
gender transitioning persons in a variety of geographic
areas and settings, their implementation presupposes
significant resources on the part of the individual seeking
transition. Many people who seek hormonal treatment
have neither the funds to obtain a psychiatric evaluation
and three months of psychotherapy nor insurance
coverage of mental health services. However, both
estrogens and androgens are available via the internet,
over the counter in Mexico and other countries, without
prescription in certain settings (e.g., testosterone preparations at some gyms), and through veterinary supply.
Individuals who lack financial resources, or who do not
wish to participate in usual medical and mental health care
for other reasons, therefore, have the option of selftreatment with informally obtained hormone preparations.
This entails significant medical risk. Potential problems
include needle sharing (179) as well as administration of
inappropriately high hormone dosages together with lack
of monitoring for deleterious hormonal effects (180).
Despite the apparent widespread use of nonprescribed
hormonal preparations [reviewed by Lawrence (180)],
there is currently little information available concerning
complications of this practice given that it occurs outside
of the medical setting. Some clinicians and practices have
adopted a harm reduction model of hormonal care for
gender transitioning persons, consisting of hormone
prescription and basic laboratory services with few
additional treatment requirements on the part of the
The Protocols for Hormonal Reassignment of Gender of
the Tom Waddell Health Center (TWHC) note that “[t]here
exists a large group of individuals self-identified as transgenders who are at high risk for HIV transmission, are
homeless or nearly homeless, and who are in need of
general primary care services. This group has historically
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 24
been averse to accessing medical services for a number of
reasons…” (181). The decision regarding hormone prescription is, therefore, left to the individual physician or
nurse practitioner, based on psychosocial evaluation,
physical examination, and informed consent. However,
psychiatric evaluation is required for adolescents, with
family participation unless the youth is legally emancipated. Although specific data regarding measurable
aspects of treatment success from this approach have not
been published, the authors of the TWHC protocol documenttation (2006) note that their center has treated nearly
1,200 patients, with over 400 in active medical care. Most
practices that use similar treatment approaches are located
in urban centers with substantial populations of high-risk
transgender adults and youth. Evidence regarding the
effectiveness of these approaches is currently lacking with
regard to treatment of gender dysphoria, though the harm
reduction basis is similar to other evidence-based public
health programs aimed at reducing HIV risk.
In some settings, psychiatric or psychological evaluation is not required prior to initiation of hormonal
therapies if the prescribing clinician is able to assume
responsibility for the associated aspects of mental health
care. For example, in the Transgender Health Program of
Vancouver Coastal Health (172) primary care providers,
including family physicians and nurse practitioners, may
choose to have sole responsibility for evaluating eligibility
and readiness for hormone therapy, and for initiating and
monitoring this treatment, if their clinical expertise and
practice structure support this level of involvement. (In this
protocol, nurse practitioners may prescribe estrogens but
not androgens.) However, the British Columbia Medical
Services Plan will not approve applications for transgender
surgical coverage unless this is recommended by two
psychiatrists or one psychiatrist and one Ph.D. psychologist, both of whom must be registered with the Plan
(182). Evidence regarding the efficacy of this approach is
not available, though the pre-surgical criteria are similar to
the WPATH SOC in some respects.
Some practices employ a modified treatment protocol,
such as a medical evaluation with hormone prescription,
followed by a later visit with a mental health provider, for
at least some transgender patient groups. In New York City,
the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center treatment
protocol for hormone therapy for “men of transgender
experience, hormone experienced” provides an example in
that regard (227). Other physicians informally waive any
requirement for mental health evaluation if the individual
has already been using hormonal medications for a
substantial length of time, even if they were obtained
without prescription. Some clinicians place a very high
emphasis on patient autonomy, and provide hormone
prescriptions on patient request, unless a strong medical
contraindication is present. This is consistent with the
principles articulated by the International Conference on
Transgender Law and Employment Policy, Inc. (ICTLEP)
(183). No studies comparing treatment guided by these
different policies have been carried out with respect to any
outcome measure.
Fraser (184) has recommended expanded use of the
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
internet for education and psychotherapy for transgender
persons and for clinician training in transgender mental
health care. The creation of "gender specialists" among
masters- and doctoral-level clinicians has been suggested
by Lev (162). Although the gender specialist was concepttualized as having a supportive/informed consent role
rather than acting as a "gatekeeper," letters of recommendation would be required prior to the initiation of
hormonal and surgical treatments. Thus, the distinction
between this role and that of gatekeeper is subtle—
evaluation by a mental health professional would still be
required prior to receiving desired medical treatments.
Although the informal use of the term "gender specialist"
appears to be increasing among some mental health
practitioners, formalization seems unlikely in the near
future given the absence of consensus regarding formal
training requirements, training institutions and licensing
bodies. The Task Force does not support development of
specific gender specialist criteria or certification as this
might inadvertently create restrictions for mental health
professionals already working with patients with GV/GID.
Mental Health Evaluation Prior to Surgical Care
At the time of this writing, many surgeons performing
genital gender reassignment surgery in the United States
utilize the WPATH SOC (version 6) as part of the preoperative evaluation, though these are neither mandatory nor
universally accepted, and some surgeons select patients
through other means. In some other countries, surgical
eligibility criteria are even more stringent than the WPATH
SOC, such as the requirement by the British Columbia
Medical Services Plan that both evaluating clinicians be of
doctoral level and approved by the Plan, and at least one a
psychiatrist. Waiver of the mental health evaluation has
been recommended as a matter of policy (ICTLEP, 1997) or
on ethical grounds (185) but it is not clear that either of
these arguments has gained extensive support within the
surgical community. No direct evidence is available to
address the safety and efficacy of evaluation for suitability
for surgery by the surgeon, without the assistance of
mental health professionals, though Lawrence’s (38) work
is somewhat related.
Given the magnitude of bodily change involved, its
profound social significance, and the irreversible nature of
these procedures, it seems unlikely that many more surgeons in the United States and Europe will decide to
perform genital reassignment surgeries without preoperative mental health consultation, prior hormonal transition
and real life experience, or some other substantial evaluative process. However, it should be noted that the ultimate
decision regarding whether or not to operate in a particular
case rests with the surgeon, i.e., he/she can decline to
perform surgery even if the patient has been recommended according to the WPATH SOC or other evaluative
means. As Richard Green (167) has noted, “If gender
patients can procure surgeons who do not require psychiatric or psychological referrals, research should address
outcomes for those who are professionally referred versus
the self-referred.”
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 25
Gender Variance in Persons with Somatic
Disorders of Sex Development
(aka Intersexuality)
Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, Dr. rer. nat.
William Byne, M.D., Ph.D.
The process of decisions on gender assignment at birth
is strongly emphasized in the clinical management of
individuals with somatic disorders of sex development
(DSD; the term includes, but is not limited to, what was
formerly called intersexuality). Patient-initiated gender
reassignment at later ages, from late pre-school age
through adulthood, varies with the specific DSD syndrome,
from 0% to about two-thirds of persons (60). Among
individuals who meet DSM-IV-TR criteria A and B for GID,
those who have a DSD differ markedly in several respects
from those who do not. These differences include
variations in presentation, medical implications and clinical context (168). As a consequence, the DSM-IV-TR (187)
placed individuals with gender dysphoria and a DSD under
the category GID Not Otherwise Specified (GID NOS),
rather than under the more specifically defined term GID.
GID NOS is commonly used also for individuals without a
DSD who meet some but not all required GID criteria
(often referred to as “subthreshold cases”). Thus, GID NOS
is often applied to both groups of individuals with a DSD
and gender identity concerns, those who meet all required
GID criteria A and B, and those who meet only some of
them. As the DSM-5 will be published in 2013 at the
earliest, and the revision process is in progress at the time
of this writing, the current discussion will use the DSM-IVTR formulations. Given the very limited literature on DSDrelated GID and the fact that sex reassignment in individuals with DSD-related GID can occur at any age, we will
deviate from the strictly age-defined outline of the previous
sections and will present the DSD-related issues in a more
integrated fashion.
The present discussion will be limited to individuals
with DSDs who present with clinically significant gender
dysphoria or frank desire for gender reassignment. Clinical
management of gender reassignment of such patients
overlaps to some extent with that of persons with GID in
the absence of a DSD. However, for individuals with a DSD,
there are fewer barriers to legal gender reassignment, and
the barriers to hormonal and surgical treatments in
conjunction with gender reassignment are much lower. An
example would be a 46,XY individual who was born with
penile agenesis, assigned to the female gender and
gonadectomized (although the testes were entirely normal
and had provided for male-typical androgen exposure of
the fetal brain), and who chooses to transition to the male
gender in late adolescence (61). Another example would be
a 46,XX legally female individual with congenital adrenal
hyperplasia (CAH) and an associated history of marked
fetal masculinization and marked postnatal virilization
(due to insufficient cortisol replacement therapy) who in
adulthood requests reassignment to the male gender (188).
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
As illustrated by the above examples, several factors
contribute to the lowered threshold for gender reassignment in individuals with a DSD. One is the fact that many
of the underlying medical conditions require hormone
administration as part of routine care. Moreover, many
DSD syndromes involve infertility, which may either be
congenital or due to gonadectomy performed according to
past or present management guidelines, e.g., because of
cancer risk (51). In addition, genital surgery has often been
performed in infancy so that genital anatomy more closely
corresponds to the assigned gender and is suitable for
penile-vaginal intercourse at a later age (51, 54). Legal and
medical gender reassignment of individuals with a DSD
may, therefore, take place at much younger ages than in
persons with GID in the absence of a DSD. The evolution of
clinical thinking and management guidelines concerning
the indications for gonadectomy and genital surgery in
infancy, and current controversies in these areas, are
discussed in several recent reviews (50-52, 54, 55, 168, 189191). Decisions regarding hormonal and surgical procedures are complicated by the highly variable somatic
presentations of the many diverse DSD conditions. [A
review of these syndromes is beyond the scope of the present
review; see Grumbach et al. (192).] In addition, appropriate
mental health care includes the often delicate task of
disclosure of the medical history along with psychoeducation about the underlying biological condition (56,
193, 194).
Several major clinical management concerns that arise
with patients with a DSD who experience gender dysphoria
can be expected to profit from mental health interventions
and treatment guidelines. These include: 1) the evaluation
of gender and the respective psychiatric diagnosis, if any,
in cases with incongruence between gender identity and
assigned gender. This issue will be addressed largely in
DSM-5 and only briefly touched upon in this report; 2) the
process and validation of decisions regarding gender
reassignment including the identification and validation of
the criteria on which such decisions are based; 3) the
management of clinically significant gender dysphoria in
individuals with a DSD who do not transition to gender
change; 4) selected psychological and psychiatric aspects
of the endocrine management of puberty in the context of
gender reassignment; 5) selected psychological and psychiatric aspects of care involving genital surgery in the
context of gender reassignment; 6) psychological implications of gonadectomy and their management; 7) disclosure
of the DSD and treatment history to the patient; 8) the
impact of DSD support groups; and 9) the qualifications of
professionals who provide mental health services to
patients with DSDs and gender identity concerns.
Treatment of individuals with DSDs, in general, needs
to address a variety of additional issues with mental health
implications. Among these are the management of the
gender assignment at birth and its implications for the risk
of developing gender dysphoria later; the clinical and
ethical issues involved in the disclosure of medical history
and biological status to the patient; the patient’s selfdisclosure to others; evaluation and management of any
associated psychiatric conditions, especially depression
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 26
and suicide risk; the management of DSD-related stigma;
assessment of adherence to hormone-replacement therapy
and reasons for nonadherence; providing continuity of
care from childhood and adolescence into adulthood; and
many others (50, 55, 56).
Gender Evaluation
The assessment of gender-related behavior and identity
in individuals with DSDs has been greatly improved by the
development of a number of psychometrically sound questionnaires and interview schedules, based on self-report or
parent report [e.g., (195, 196)]. The evaluation procedures
and related clinical considerations have been described in
several publications (49, 56, 197, 198). The validation of
such gender-assessment tools is based primarily on the
demonstration of significant differences, preferably with
large effect sizes: 1) between males and females in general;
2) between individuals with gender dysphoria who do not
have a DSD versus control individuals without either
gender dysphoria or a DSD (separately for males and
females); and later, when available, 3) between individuals
with both a DSD and gender dysphoria and controls.
Clinical experience has demonstrated that, in children
and young adolescents, the evaluation of gender identity
and related medical decisions regarding potential
hormonal and surgical treatments requires cautious
shielding of the young patient from family and peer
pressures. Strong rapport building is also required by the
clinician who must avoid unwittingly “leading” the child or
adolescent. The process demands an extensive commitment of time. To date no systematic studies of related
techniques and their outcomes are available.
Decisions on Gender Reassignment
When an individual with a DSD meets GID criteria A
and B of DSM-IV-TR, the clinician and the patient, or in the
case of minors, the primary caregivers and the clinician
(with the child’s participation increasing with cognitive
maturation), through discussion arrive at a consensus
regarding a decision for or against gender reassignment. In
this context, reassignment usually means reassignment to
the “other gender” relative to the patient’s natal or legal
gender, although occasionally adult patients self-identify
as “neither – nor,” “third gender,” “intersex,” or some other
category that implicitly rejects an exclusively binary system
of gender classification. This decision is also influenced by
a number of factors in addition to the A and B criteria.
These include: 1) the known or assumed implications of
the individual’s particular DSD syndrome for genetic and
hormonal effects on the sexual differentiation of the brain
and behavior (199); 2) available knowledge regarding the
long-term gender outcome of other individuals with this
particular syndrome (e.g., likelihood of long-term satisfaction with the new gender identity and/or gender role
versus regret and request for re-transition, degree of
confidence in one’s gender identity, etc.); and 3) the
potential benefits and risks of gender-confirming genital
Readiness criteria for the various steps of gender
reassignment, for instance in terms of cognitive and
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
emotional development, especially in children and
adolescents, have not been formulated for individuals with
DSDs. Clinical experience and published case reports
suggest that these factors should be considered along with
the duration and consistency of gender incongruence and
desire for gender change. In addition, different cultures
and even subcultures within a given country may differ in
the prevailing gender categories and the salience and
weight of criteria used in decision making on gender
assignment (200).
A stringent evaluation of gender reassignment decisions by RCT with long-term follow-up has never been
attempted. Moreover, such a study is highly unlikely to be
done for a variety of reasons. These include the distress
likely to be involved when gender assignment is done
randomly rather than based on what clinicians and parents
decide on as best on the basis of existing information, the
expected low participation rate, and the large costs of longterm follow up. A short-term, waiting list type study design
might be acceptable to an institutional review board, but
would be logistically difficult to implement and probably
not even be very informative given the slow processes
involved in gender development. A less stringent validation
of gender reassignment decisions (without RCT) in terms
of long-term gender outcome by systematic prospective
follow-up studies into at least mid-adulthood has also not
yet been made because of the obvious logistical and
financial problems involved.
Long-term follow-up studies of gender outcome that
are available at this time include individual case reports
[e.g., (188, 201)]. There are also one time, cross-sectional
studies, such as follow-up of all patients seen within a
clinic starting at birth or any time later [e.g., (202-206)], or
studies of patients recruited from support groups or from
multiple sources, without analyzing systematically for
patient-initiated gender reassignment [e.g., (207-209)].
These studies typically cover a wide range of ages.
Moreover, the time intervals between assignment and
follow up vary widely, and there are usually no attempts to
do case-control comparisons of individuals with the same
syn-drome and the same degree of syndrome severity in
terms of genital atypicality. Missing altogether is a
validation of the specific criteria upon which gender
reassignment decisions in patients with DSDs have been
based, e.g., which factors best predict a stable gender
identity and/or quality of life.
The best available evidence is a combination of Levels
[B] Clinical trial (with reassignment as the intervention for
gender-dysphoric cases) and [C] Longitudinal follow-up,
without any specific intervention for cases without gender
dysphoria. These observational follow-up studies often
have significant methodological weaknesses, including
small sample sizes, syndrome heterogeneity, high attrition
rates in long-term follow-ups, large variations in the
follow-up intervals, and noncomparability of (reassignment) cases and (nonreassignment) controls in regard to
reassignment-relevant medical characteristics and/or
social contexts. A few summary reports integrate data from
accessible existing case reports and small group studies
and, thereby, fit the APA evidence category of [F] Review
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 27
[e.g., (57-61)]. The GRADE system of evidence
categorization (210) is not applicable because a systematic
analysis of the risk/benefit ratio has typically not been
attempted in these reports.
Gender Dysphoria Without Transition to Gender Change
As gender roles in industrialized societies have gained
flexibility and the (non-DSD) transgender spectrum has
diversified, the spectrum of gender outcomes in patients
with DSDs has also expanded. Gender dysphoria does not
always lead to gender reassignment and even if legal
gender change is obtained, the individual may not
necessarily seek to obtain all facets of available hormonal
and surgical treatment. By way of self-reflection alone, or
in conjunction with discussions in support groups or
psychotherapy sessions, the patient may decide against a
gender transition altogether or only for a partial transition.
No systematic work has addressed the psychological
processes underlying such decisions in patients with DSDs.
Gender Reassignment and the Endocrine Management
of Puberty
In young persons with gender dysphoria who do not
have a DSD, the aversive reaction to endogenous puberty is
considered an indicator of cross-gender identification and
recent years have seen an increase in the use of pubertal
suspension, mostly by the administration of GnRH
analogs, to give the early adolescent more time to come to
a conclusion regarding gender reassignment, to reduce the
development of unwanted secondary sex characteristics
before cross-sex hormone treatment is started, and to
reduce the emotional distress associated with such
developments (29).
Medical suspension of puberty is not relevant to the
management of gender dysphoria in those patients with
DSDs who do not have functional gonadal tissue (whether
congenitally or due to gonadectomy). However, such an
approach could in principle be considered for patients
with functioning gonadal tissue and a DSD such as 46,XX
CAH, where the excess androgen production of the adrenal
is suppressed by glucocorticoid replacement therapy, but
no such study has been published to date. It is noted,
however, that some adult patients with 46,XX CAH have
simply stopped taking glucocorticoids to self-induce
somatic virilization (188).
In hypogonadal or agonadal persons with a DSD,
puberty is usually induced by sex hormone treatment, and
when the decision for gender reassignment has been made,
the sex hormone treatment is done in line with the gender
desired by the patient. The details of sex hormone administration (specific medication, dosing, and mode of
administration) are decided by the endocrinologist. On
psychological grounds, the age when the patient’s peers
begin noticeable pubertal development is usually recommended as the starting age for the initiation of puberty in
patients with DSDs. The supporting evidence for this is
clinical experience and some evidence from early observational follow-up reports of patients with Turner’s
syndrome or hypopituitarism and late initiated puberty
[summarized in (211)], not based on systematic study.
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
However, such early timing might also be recommended
on the basis of recent data on nonhuman mammals
showing continued capacity of the brain for organizational
effects of sex hormones which gradually diminishes from
early puberty to adulthood (212).
A number of retrospective studies have reported past
periods of gender uncertainty in patients with DSDs who at
the time of later evaluation in adulthood were content with
their originally assigned gender (209, 213, 214). Whether
the resolution of such transient gender uncertainties of
patients with DSDs is supported by sex-hormone treatment and its timing or other factors has not been studied.
The question of postnatal hormone effects is raised in this
context. For example, female-assigned 46,XX individuals
with CAH who transition gender at later ages tend to be
those with a history of high postnatal androgen exposure.
Causes of such high exposure include delayed onset of
glucocorticoid treatment or prolonged interruption of
treatment (usually due to the unavailability of appropriate
services or a lack of money), even if their prenatal
androgen exposure and their genital masculinization at
birth were not extreme (188). Available evidence is yet too
limited for firm conclusions regarding the role of postnatal
sex-hormone exposure in gender-identity development.
Gender Reassignment and Gender-Confirming Genital
Detailed case reports [e.g., (201)], clinical observations
[e.g., (215)], and the first systematic qualitative studies
(186, 190, 202, 216) have documented the widespread
social stigmatization in patients with DSDs, which is in
part related to gender-atypical appearance, especially of
the genitals. The “optimal gender policy” for the management of DSD introduced in the mid-1950s by John Money
and colleagues at Johns Hopkins included recommendations for corrective genital surgery in early childhood. The
aim was to bring the genital appearance in line with the
assigned gender in order to facilitate the acceptance of the
child as a member of the assigned gender in the social
environment. This would, in turn, facilitate genderappropriate rearing, and, thereby minimize the occurrence
of later body image problems and gender doubts on the
part of the patient. An additional aim was to provide the
capacity for penile-vaginal intercourse in adulthood.
Because it was easier to surgically construct a vagina than a
penis, this policy entailed a bias towards female assignment in 46,XY patients with a DSD and a markedly undersized phallus (an extreme example is the syndrome of
penile agenesis mentioned earlier). In the last 15 years,
testimonials of individuals with DSDs whose care followed
the “optimal gender policy,” detailed case reports, and
long-term, observational follow-up studies on gender
outcome and sexual functioning have raised significant
doubts about the policy (60). Many patients initiate gender
change later despite early gender-confirming surgery,
especially among 46,XY patients raised female (although
the frequency varies considerably with the particular DSD
syndrome). Furthermore, body-image problems and even
stigmatization can occur despite early genital surgery,
especially if the latter is not well done. Additionally, genital
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 28
surgery entails a significant risk of impaired sexual functioning, which has led to a rethinking of gender assignment
decisions in newborns and increased conservatism regarding genital surgery (51, 194, 217), a process that is still
In the course of this debate, numerous outcome studies
of genital surgery in individuals with DSDs have been
published, which increasingly evaluate not only cosmesis
(i.e., quality of the anatomic outcome) but also functional
outcome (216, 218-221). Yet, the surgical techniques
utilized are highly variable; the existing cross-sectional
follow-up studies usually involve only modest sample sizes
of patients with DSDs, often with considerable variability
in the particular DSD syndromes represented among the
subjects as well as in the ages at evaluation; RCT approaches to compare surgical techniques, even for cosmetic
outcome, have not been attempted; and the existing
follow-up studies commonly do not even attempt to
systematically compare different surgical techniques. It is,
therefore, difficult to draw conclusions sufficient for
evidence-based recommendations. This applies especially
to the numerous functional outcome criteria that are of
clinical relevance (222). The question of optimal timing of
such genital surgery runs into similar difficulties and
existing consensus recommendations are uncomfortably
nonspecific (51, 54). While many aspects of the evaluation
of surgical technique fall within the purview of surgery, the
indications and patient readiness for surgery as well as the
impact of surgery on sexual satisfaction and psychological
wellbeing should ideally involve mental health professsionals. Considerations of the implications of a patient’s
present or emerging sexual orientation are also typically
missing in existing discussions regarding the indications
for genital surgery. The capacity for penile-vaginal intercourse may be valued differently depending on the sexual
orientation of the individual, especially relative to the difficulties that the required surgeries sometimes entail (223).
Psychological Implications of Gonadectomy
Particularly in DSD syndromes involving Y chromosomes, various forms of gonadal dysgenesis, gonadal
dysfunction, and/or the risk of malignant transformation,
removal of the gonads may be recommended regardless of
sex reassignment decisions (51, 53). Although there is a rich
non-DSD literature on the consequences of infertility,
gonadectomy, and iatrogenic and endogenous hypogonadism, there has been no systematic study of these issues
in individuals with DSDs, except for the inclusion of related
clinical observations in occasional case reports.
Disclosure of the DSD History
Because of the potential for DSD-related social stigmatization and self-image problems, the “optimal gender
policy” of the Johns Hopkins group recommended that
provision of information on the biological status and
medical information about the child with a DSD be limited
to a few family members along with a carefully paced
disclosure to the patient him/herself and detailed suggestions on disclosure procedures [e.g., (197, 224)]. Although
Money recommended full disclosure by the time a child
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
completed high school unless there were significant cognitive limitations, our experience is that other clinicians
frequently advised permanent withholding of disclosure
from the patient and sometimes even from the parent. This
approach has been challenged on ethical grounds, is
clearly at variance with the patients’ rights movement of
recent decades, and may entail serious medical risks. This
approach may also lead to a situation when an adult
discovers his/her DSD status in a setting that does not
include medical supervision (e.g., self-initiated review of
medical records, self-diagnosis with the aid of web-based
materials or Internet contacts). Moreover, many case
reports and patient testimonials have documented the
negative psychological outcomes of such secrecy—for
example, shame, distress to the point of suicidality, and
distrust of primary caregivers and doctors, the latter in
some patients leads to avoidance of routine medical
services altogether (190, 201, 205, 225). Yet, the questions
of timing and techniques of disclosure as described by
Money (197) and Meyer-Bahlburg (56), for instance, have
never undergone systematic study, and formal clinical
trials are highly unlikely given the difficult logistics of such
trials with patients with rare disorders as well as the
complexity of clinical considerations involved. For quite a
few patients with DSDs and gender uncertainty or gender
dysphoria, the disclosure of their medical information can
be of help to their understanding of their behavioral gender
atypicality and may add arguments to their initiation of
gender change, but this has been documented only in
occasional case reports, not by systematic studies.
DSD Support Groups
Feelings of isolation are widespread among persons
with DSDs, as in individuals with other uncommon medical conditions. Clinical experience and many patient testimonials have documented the tremendous beneficial
effects many people experience when they are finally able
to contact or meet face-to-face with others with the same
or a similar condition through a DSD support group [e.g.,
(190, 225, 226)]. Such groups are usually organized by
persons with DSDs or their families rather than by medical
or mental health professionals. Despite the emotional relief
that they can provide, support group contacts sometimes
also may cause additional concerns (56). For instance, the
composition of the group (e.g., the DSD syndromes represented within the group, the personalities of group
members) may not meet the patient’s expectations, and
the information provided may not always be correct. Thus,
patients who choose to participate in support groups
should be encouraged to check back with their clinicians if
they receive conflicting information or advice. Systematic
research on the value of support groups in the clinical
management of persons with DSDs has not yet been done.
Qualifications of Providers of Mental Health Services
The selected topics above provide a cursory overview of
the issues with which mental health professionals
(psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, etc.) ought to
be familiar and be able to manage clinically. Although
recent medical guidelines emphasize the need for mental
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 29
health service providers with expertise in this area of care
(29, 51, 54), currently very few mental health professionals
are knowledgeable about treatment of persons with GID,
and even fewer have much clinical experience with
individuals with DSDs who have gender identity concerns.
Given the dearth of specialized mental health service
providers in this area, the gender evaluation and preparation for management decisions, including hormone
treatment and genital surgery, are primarily made by
endocrinologists and surgeons. Currently there exist no
formal programs for specialized training of mental health
personnel in this area. This Task Force strongly endorses
the involvement of psychiatrists and other mental health
professionals in the care of persons with DSDs and gender
dysphoria; however, we conclude that it is premature to
recommend detailed guidelines on required qualifications.
To do so might jeopardize existing providers rather than
contribute to closing the gap in the availability of mental
health professionals in this area of clinical service.
In addition to the issue of treatment recommendations,
several concerns regarding gender identity and the rights
of persons who are gender variant are potential subjects for
policy development within the American Psychiatric
Association. These include:
(1) Support for treatment resources for gender variant
and gender transitioning adults, and removal of barriers to
care, including insurance coverage for accepted treatments, similar to AMA House of Delegates’ Resolutions 114
(A-08) and 122, and the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives’ Policy Statement regarding
Gender Identity, Transgender and Gender Expression Nondiscrimination.
(2) Support for reasonable revision of identity documents for gender transitioning persons, including United
States passports and birth certificates which currently are
difficult to correct.
(3) Specific support for the marriage, adoption and
parenting rights of transgender and gender transitioning
persons, similar to existing American Psychiatric Association policies regarding same gender couples.
(4) Support for the rights of incarcerated persons who
are gender variant or gender transitioning to personal
safety and comprehensive healthcare, including transgender health services.
(5) Support for transgender health services for
members of the uniformed services and veterans, and
opposition to the use of transgender or GV as grounds for
discharge or rejection from enlistment.
(6) Support for the most appropriate placement of
persons who are transgender in gender-segregated treatment facilities, including inpatient psychiatric units,
residential addiction treatment programs, and geriatric
care centers.
(7) Support for the inclusion and fair, collegial treatment of gender variant persons in all aspects of professsional life, including medical schools, residency programs
Am J Psychiatry 169:8, August 2012, data supplement.
and fellowships in psychiatry, and the American
Psychiatric Association.
(8) Support for professional and public education
regarding transgender and GV, including:
(a) Scientifically sound, non-stigmatizing information
about GV for patients and members of the general
(b) The inclusion of affirming, nondiscriminatory
information regarding GV and gender transition in
the curricula of medical schools and psychiatric
residencies and fellowships.
(c) Sponsorship of continuing medical education
(CME) activities regarding transgender, such as
presentations at the APA annual meeting and
written materials in CME publications, particularly those used for maintenance of certification
(d) Inclusion of questions about transgender on the
ABPN certifying and MOC examinations.
(e) Tasking a specific APA component or other group
within the APA to monitor progress with regard to
these activities.
Because of the multiplicity of DSDs, the complex differences among them and their implications for integrated
interdisciplinary care that includes mental health services;
because not all DSDs are associated with either gender
ambiguity or gender dysphoria; and because the needs of
individuals with DSDs and gender dysphoria overlap
incompletely with the needs of individuals with gender
dysphoria in the absence of a DSD, the Task Force recommends that the APA create a separate mechanism for
assessing the mental health needs of individuals with
DSDs, whether or not gender dysphoria is present, and
work towards better integration of mental health professsionals into the interdisciplinary teams that provide their
care. This would include involvement with parents as soon
as the DSD comes to attention, which increasingly occurs
during pregnancy.
Areas identified to be addressed within this mechanism
include 1) psychoeducation of parents or primary caregivers; 2) assessment of indications and readiness for
gender confirming surgeries and procedures related to
them; 3) age appropriate disclosure of DSD status and
related medical/surgical history; 4) issues related to gonadectomy and infertility; 5) DSD-associated stigma includeing that related to genital anomalies and other body image
issues as well as feelings of shame and guilt; 6) revealing
DSD status to others; and 7) the impact of DSD status on
relationship issues including sexual intimacy.
This recommendation to create a mechanism to
address the mental health needs of individuals with DSDs,
whether or not gender concerns are present, is not
intended to exclude individuals with DSDs from APA
recommendations pertaining to GID, GID NOS or other
manifestations of GV.
© Copyright, American Psychiatric Association, all rights reserved. 30
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